Friday, October 19, 2018

Half of Puerto Rico still in darkness, with no light in sight

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently estimated complete power restoration by May, leaving 45 percent of the island’s 1.5 million electricity customers in the dark.

Image Credit: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

It’s going on 104 days since Hurricane Maria destructed Puerto Rico and more than 660,000 Americans living on the island are still without power. Official figures were released for the first time last Friday by the Puerto Rican government showing electricity has yet to be restored to half of the island’s residents since the Category 4 storm hit on Sept. 20.

While Gov. Ricardo Rosselló was aiming for power to be restored to 95 percent of it’s residents by Dec. 15, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently estimated complete power restoration by May, leaving 45 percent of the island’s 1.5 million electricity customers in the dark.

“It’s just extraordinary that it is still so far away from being 100 percent recovered,” Susan Tierney, senior adviser for consulting company Analysis Group, said.

Tierney recently testified about the efforts needed to fully restore power to Puerto Rico before a U.S. Senate committee.

“I’m not aware of any time in recent decades since the U.S. has electrified the entire economy that there has been an outage of this magnitude,” she said, according to Time.com.

Many Puerto Ricans are angry with the time frame, saying that the restoration is taking far too long. According to the AP, Fredyson Martinez, vice president of a union that represents Puerto Rico power company workers, said that “90 percent of industries and 75 percent of businesses already have power, meaning residential areas are disproportionately in the dark.”

And one of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities is completely without power with no knowing when power will be restored. Many schools remain closed along with several businesses, which not only effect the economy of Puerto Rico now in an eleven-year recession, but poses health risks to residents.

As Gov. Ricardo Rosselló continues to request help, U.S.-based utility companies are deploying crews to the island to “update and restore the aged grid and potentially introduce new renewable power.”

“We understand how difficult it has been for the people of Puerto Rico who have been without power for so long,” he said. “Our administration will continue working to ensure that there are the necessary resources to complete this restoration effort after an unprecedented devastation.”

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