Yaniel Alexis Perez outside his flooded home in Añasco, Puerto Rico. He has not had electricity since Hurricane Maria hit in September 2017. Photo: Milton Carrero Galarza / The Los Angeles Times

By Milton Carrero Galarza And Kurtis Lee
19 November 2017

AÑASCO, Puerto Rico (Los Angeles Times) – The lights remain off in bustling cities and in small rural villages. Gas generators, the only alternative to the downed power lines that seem to be everywhere, continuously hum outside hospitals and bodegas. When night falls, it’s the glow of car lights, not streetlights, that helps break through the darkness.

Two months after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, much of the U.S. territory still lacks electricity. Even in areas with power, such as the capital city of San Juan, residents must deal with daily blackouts.

A lack of reliable electricity coupled with massive destruction to roads and bridges have led hundreds of thousands to flee Puerto Rico for the mainland U.S., and some economists predict decades of stagnation for an island that already was struggling financially.

In recent days, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello announced that the island, through the work of Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority, had restored power to 50% of the commonwealth.

Rossello has said the island will reach 80% generation by the end of November and 95% by mid-December — goals that some here have called unrealistic. By contrast, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that 75% of the island will regain power by the end of January. […]

On Saturday, Yaniel Alexis Perez walked down a narrow street in Añasco, a city of about 27,000 people with views that overlook the Caribbean Sea. He wore a special necklace — a black cellphone charger he carries with him everywhere so he can power up his phone when he finds electricity.

Perez's house is without power, and still flooded after the unrelenting rains that have pounded the island. The floodwaters have made it dangerous for him to use a generator.

For several weeks, Perez, 25, has powered up thanks to the generosity of friends with generators. He also spends evenings at the home of his neighbor, Ricardo Prosper.

Prosper, 67, considers himself a creative type. He managed to wire the 12-volt lightbulbs in his home to a series of car batteries.

"Even if there is no electricity, there's light here," Prosper said, showing his living room.

Officials estimate several hundred people — mostly young adults — are leaving Puerto Rico each day for the mainland. […]

Tony Villamil, an economist based in Miami who has worked extensively in Puerto Rico, said Saturday it was "going to take a decade at minimum for the island to recover and regain some sense of normalcy." [more]

Two months after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico struggles to regain electricity and thousands flee the island

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