Puerto Rico hit again: Island suffers massive power outage

The blackout underscores the island’s electrical grid vulnerability since Hurricane Maria

By Nicole Karlis
Published April 18, 2018 7:23PM (EDT)
Repair work is done on power lines affected by Hurricane Maria April 18, 2018 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Getty Images)
Repair work is done on power lines affected by Hurricane Maria April 18, 2018 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Getty Images)

Nearly seven months after Hurricane Maria left many areas of Puerto Rico devastated the island is still feeling its effects, suffering yet another massive blackout on Wednesday.

According to CNN, an excavator is to blame for the island-wide power outage. Authorities told CNN power would be restored within 24 to 36 hours. At least seven municipalities and five hospitals had their power restored by 3:30 pm on Wednesday. The ongoing process to restore power following last year's devastating hurricane has prioritized critical locations like hospitals and airports.

This is the second major power outage in Puerto Rico in the last week, highlighting the fragility of Puerto Rico’s electrical grid. Many policymakers have taken to Twitter to express their frustrations regarding the situation, and criticize policymakers—and President Donald Trump— for not giving Puerto Rico the necessary resources to recover from the crisis months later.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz tweeted on Wednesday: “The entire electrical system in Puerto Rico collapses AGAIN! Back to September 20th."

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, called on Congress to take action on Twitter, noting how Congress “hasn’t done nearly enough to help them [Puerto Rico] recover and rebuild after Hurricane Maria.”

Rep. Anthony G. Brown, D-MD, tweeted: “We can't be focused on a non-existent crisis on our border when Americans are suffering from a real crisis in Puerto Rico.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, implied on Twitter that the island-wide blackout is a result of the Trump administration ignoring Puerto Rico.

To that point, Trump has failed to mention the beleaguered territory in any of his recent Twitter tirades.

It’s been a long and tough road to recovery for Puerto Rico, much in part to the Trump administration’s lacking response to the natural disaster. Last week, Politico published a review of public documents showing that Trump had moved more quickly to respond to the Hurricane Harvey in Texas than to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The report explained:

"Within six days of Hurricane Harvey, U.S. Northern Command had deployed 73 helicopters over Houston, which are critical for saving victims and delivering emergency supplies. It took at least three weeks after Maria before it had more than 70 helicopters flying above Puerto Rico.

Nine days after the respective hurricanes, FEMA had approved $141.8 million in individual assistance to Harvey victims, versus just $6.2 million for Maria victims.

During the first nine days after Harvey, FEMA provided 5.1 million meals, 4.5 million liters of water and over 20,000 tarps to Houston; but in the same period, it delivered just 1.6 million meals, 2.8 million liters of water and roughly 5,000 tarps to Puerto Rico.

Nine days after Harvey, the federal government had 30,000 personnel in the Houston region, compared with 10,000 at the same point after Maria.

It took just 10 days for FEMA to approve permanent disaster work for Texas, compared with 43 days for Puerto Rico.

Seventy-eight days after each hurricane, FEMA had approved 39 percent of federal applications for relief from victims of Harvey, versus 28 percent for Maria."

According to the New York Times, nearly 1.5 Puerto Ricans have been affected by this latest blackout.

Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a staff writer at Salon. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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Anthony G. Brown Bill De Blasio Carmen Yulin Cruz Hurricane Maria Kirsten Gillibrand Puerto Rico