Excavator Responsible for 2nd Whole-Island Blackout in Puerto Rico

20 April 2018, 12:59 | Robert Harris

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The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority had boasted Wednesday morning that less than 3 percent of its customers remained without power, substantially concluding what some estimates called the biggest power failure in United States history.

Electricity has been restored to more than 80 percent of customers affected by an outage that plunged the entire island of Puerto Rico into darkness after an excavator struck a transmission line, officials said Thursday.

The priority is to restore service to critical structures such as hospitals, the airport, water pumps and banks, according to the agency's Twitter account.

Justo González, an executive deputy director of the power authority, said Wednesday that the blackout was caused by a private contractor when a bulldozer downed a transmission line while trying to remove a collapsed tower.

While the most recent outage highlights lingering infrastructure issues following Hurricane Maria in September, it may also obscure a near-complete comeback for the island's critical tourism sector. More than 41,000 customers have not had their power restored seven months after the Hurricane Maria.

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Angel Figueroa, president of a union that represents power company workers in Puerto Rico, told reporters that it appears a failure caused the entire electrical grid to shut down to protect itself. It snarled traffic across the island, interrupted classes and work and forced dozens of businesses to temporarily close, including the island's largest mall and popular tourist attractions like a 16th-century fort in the historic part of Puerto Rico's capital. "This is the second power failure that has affected the people of Puerto Rico in less than two weeks". "One of the best ways people can support Puerto Rico is by visiting - staying at hotels, eating at restaurants, enjoying our Island's activities, and buying from local businesses".

The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June through November.

"We respond to get things back up to normal", Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite said. "The grid is so fragile and they're just barely able to get the lights back on".

Given the criticism of the Whitefish Energy Holdings contract at the time, Mammoth Energy Services tried to highlight how the contract signed by its affiliate was negotiated much differently. He said the union is investigating why a breaker at a main power station in the island's southern region did not function when the outage occurred. He said Tesla already did similar work on smaller islands. "Rebuilding the generating capability of Puerto Rico was not the Corps of Engineers' task".



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