The 3.5 million people of Puerto Rico are entering their second day with no power after a substation fire knocked out service to the entire island. The power outage has left schools scrambling to cancel classes and public hospitals forced to cancel surgeries.
Perhaps even worse, the outage caused numerous fires across the island as a result of malfunctioning generators, including at the upscale Vanderbilt hotel in the popular tourist area of Condado and at the mayor’s office in the northern coastal town of Catano.
While Puerto Rico's Governor Padilla and the utility's CEO, Javier Quintana, have said they expect service to be restored by this morning, many Puerto Ricans are dubious saying that the economic slump has affected the government's ability to maintain basic infrastructure. According to the Wall Street Journal, hundreds of people took to social media to criticize the Electric Power Authority, noting they already pay bills on average twice that of the U.S. mainland.
The fire apparently started at this sub-station in Central Aguirre, Puerto Rico.
PUERTO RICO: Nationwide blackout reported in all of PR due to a massive fire at power plant, leaving 1.5 million people without power. VIDEO pic.twitter.com/bnM59irSv3— KolHaolam (@KolHaolam) September 21, 2016
Firefighters were able to extinguish the flames but the damage has still not been repaired leaving millions without power.
Per the WSJ, it's unclear how much damage the fire caused or where the power company would obtain the money to repair and/or replace the damaged equipment. In addition to Puerto Rico's efforts to restructure $70BN of public debt, the utility is also struggling with $9 billion of its own debt that it too hopes to restructure amid corruption allegations.
The outage was the latest hit for Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory that has been mired in a decade-long economic crisis resulting in the need to restructure nearly $70 billion in public debt.
Seems that diverting all tax revenue to service mounting public debt balances does have long-term consequences...something the mainland could probably learn from.