An electric substation explosion has left parts of northern Puerto Rico without electricity. The fire was shortly extinguished, but the explosion disabled two other substations. The causes of the fire are still unknown.
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“We are trying to restore that as quickly as possible,” said the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or Prepa.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Cruz said no injuries were reported, but people close by were able to hear the explosion and see fire and smoke.
Puerto Rico was hit by Category 4 Hurricane Maria in Sept. 2017, destroying two-thirds of its electricity infrastructure. With 3.4 million residents, the entire island went into darkness. Five months later, the U.S. colony is still struggling to restore its power supply, with less than 64 percent of power customers receiving electricity.
Prepa has been criticized for its inefficiency, with US$9 billion in debt and infrastructure three times older than the industry average. Employees are still repairing old equipment further damaged by the hurricane. Even before the hurricane, blackouts were frequent.
Now, more than 400,000 power customers remain without electricity. Sunday’s explosion increased this number, but authorities managed to restore energy in most of the affected parts.
Criticism of Prepa has led Ricardo Rossello, the Governor of Puerto Rico, to announce privatization plans.
“The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority has become a heavy burden on our people, who are now hostage to its poor service and high cost,” said Rossello. “What we know today as the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority does not work and cannot continue to operate like this.
On their part, Prepa Board members told Reuters they weren’t aware of the privatization plans and declined to further comment, since the issue is still a preliminary idea and hasn’t been officially proposed by the governor.