A day after a power outage on the entire island of Puerto Rico was cut off, in the latest power outage, nearly half a million customers were left in the dark on Thursday night.
Power is recovering slowly, but more than 470,000 customers are still without electricity, out of a total of more than 1.4 million customers, according to poweroutage.us, which monitors power outages.
For Puerto Rico’s 3.2 million people, the loss of electricity across the island was a disappointing continuation of the difficulties brought by an unreliable electricity grid. Problems persist even after a private Canadian-American consortium, Luma, took over the transmission and distribution of electricity from a Puerto Rican public company last June, promising to reduce the frequency of outages.
Luma said in a statement Thursday that “the power grid has suffered a massive power outage, potentially caused by a damaged circuit breaker at the Costa Sur power plant.” The facility produces the most electricity on the island.
Video footage circulating on social media shows a fire burning at one of the power plants in Costa Sur, on the southeast coast of the island. The exact cause of the power outage, which occurred after 8pm Eastern Time on Wednesday, remains under investigation, Luma said in a statement Thursday. The company said there was “significant damage” to the facility.
Puerto Rico’s electricity authority, known as PREPA, tweets an image of a charred substation on Thursday, showing that some of its components have completely blackened.
Luma “is unable to provide an estimate of the full recovery at this time,” the company said in a statement on Thursday afternoon. Efforts to restore power will continue on Friday, the statement said.
The public school was canceled on Thursday, and some government agencies halted their usual operations. Approximately 182,000 customers of water and sanitation – about 10 percent – were also without water on Thursday as a result of power outages.
Governor Pedro R. Pierlouise has released a series of updates on social media, inviting people to “keep calm” and wait for official updates from government agencies and Luma.
In 2017, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, cutting off electricity to the entire island and further exposing the vulnerability of the already fragile electricity grid. Some residents have been without electricity for more than a year.
Officials attribute past power outages to animals – once a cat and another an iguana, according to the Associated Press.
Last year, Puerto Rico privatized its power grid and awarded Luma a 15-year contract with an annual fee of $ 115 million to take over the transmission and distribution operations from the besieged and bankrupt PREPA. The utility is still involved in electricity generation.
When Luma took over, company officials said they were ready to deal with emergencies and hurricanes. However, widespread eclipses persist and last longer than PREPA.
This was said by Rafael Hernandez, President of the House of Representatives of Puerto Rico in the tweet that a public corporation administered by suppliers in Puerto Rico, such as PREPA, can “operate more efficiently than the current energy system.” He called for Luma’s removal, saying there are “thousands of families suffering” from the breakup.
Patricia Maciej contributed to the reporting.