US territory hit by massive power outage
Nearly 350,000 customers have been left without electricity after Puerto Rico was hit by a major power outage late on Wednesday.
The blackout was caused by a fire at Costa Sur, one of the largest power plants on the Caribbean island. The blaze triggered emergency shut offs at other units, according to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa).
Fire fighters have been working late into the night to extinguish the flames.
“The power grid has suffered a massive island-wide blackout, potentially caused by a circuit breaker failure at the Costa Sur generation plant. We are not clear on the exact cause at this time,” grid operator Luma Energy said in a statement.
People might remain without power well into Thursday, “given the size and scope” of the outage, it added.
Puerto Rico’s governor Pedro Pierluisi urged “everyone to remain calm” as customers, whose phones still had battery charge, took to social media to express their outrage over yet another blackout.
Hospitals and health centers were unaffected by the problem and had enough fuel in their generators, authorities assured, adding that Covid-19 vaccines were also stored in proper conditions.
Blackouts are frequent in Puerto Rico, which is infamous for having the least reliable electricity service of any US jurisdiction.
The situation deteriorated after Hurricane Maria devastated the island’s already frail electrical grid in 2017, leaving some customers without power for almost a year.
With Prepa currently going through bankruptcy proceedings, the transmission and distribution of energy was passed to Luma last summer. According to the governor, the private company said it would reduce power interruptions by 30% and the length of outages by 40%, but it has so far been unable to keep those promises.