Mon | Dec 5, 2022

Puerto Ricans seething over lack of power days after Fiona

Published:Saturday | September 24, 2022 | 6:39 PM
Drivers drive on a dark road after the passing of Hurricane Fiona that left the parts of the island without power, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, September 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Stephanie Rojas)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Half of Puerto Rico is without power more than five days after Hurricane Fiona struck — including an entire town where not a single work crew has arrived.

Many on the United States territory are angry and incredulous, and calls are growing for the ouster of the island's private electricity transmission and distribution company.

Fuel disruptions are worsening the situation, forcing grocery stores, gas stations and other businesses to close and leaving apartment buildings in the dark because there is no diesel for generators.

Many are questioning why it is taking so long to restore power since Fiona was a Category 1 storm that did not affect the entire island, and whose rain — not wind — inflicted the greatest damage.

“It's not normal,” said Marcel Castro-Sitiriche, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez.

“They have not given a convincing explanation of what the problem is.”

Luma has said Fiona's floods left several substations underwater and inaccessible, and it has insisted it doesn't need more personnel.

“We have all the resources we believe we need,” said Luma engineer Daniel Hernández.

The lack of power has prompted at least two mayors to activate their own repair teams, and several other town leaders are calling for answers on why Luma crews have not reconnected homes and key infrastructure.

The island's power grid was already crumbling due to austerity measures, ageing infrastructure and lack of maintenance when a powerful Hurricane Maria razed the system in 2017. Reconstruction of the grid had barely started when Hurricane Fiona hit last Sunday.

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