Fire burns after an explosion at a power substation in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico, on 11 February 2018, plunging a number of municipalities into darkness: Trujillo Alto, Guaynabo, Carolina, Caguas, Juncos, and parts of San Juan. Photo: NotiUno / Twitter

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO, 12 February 2018 (AP) – An explosion and fire at an electric substation threw much of northern Puerto Rico into darkness late Sunday in a setback for the U.S. territory's efforts to fully restore power more than five months after Hurricane Maria started the longest blackout in U.S. history.

The island's Electric Power Authority said several municipalities were without power, including parts of the capital, San Juan, but that they were optimistic it could be restored within a day as they worked to repair a substation that controls voltage.

The blast illustrated the challenges of restoring a power grid that was already crumbling before it was devastated by the Category 4 hurricane.

In many cases, power workers are repairing equipment that should have long been replaced but remained online due to the power authority's years-long financial crisis. The Electric Power Authority is worth about $4 billion, carries $9 billion in debt and has long been criticized for political patronage and inefficiency. It also struggled with frequent blackouts, including an island-wide outage in September 2016.

It was not immediately known what caused Sunday's fire, which was quickly extinguished. Officials said the explosion knocked two other substations offline and caused a total loss of 400 megawatts worth of generation.

"We are trying to restore that as quickly as possible," the company said.

An ambulance rushes toward an electric substation in San Juan, Puerto Rico, after an explosion and fire caused a blackout across part of the island on 11 February 2018. Photo: Ricardo Arduengo / AFP / Getty Images

Heavy black smoke billowed from the substation as neighbors in the area described on social media seeing the sky turn orange following a loud explosion. San Juan Mayor Carmen Cruz tweeted that no injuries had been reported and that power had been restored in some areas of the city.

The blackout comes as more than 400,000 power customers remain in the dark more than five months after Hurricane Maria. The storm destroyed two-thirds of the island's power distribution system and caused up to an estimated $94 billion in damage. [more]

Blackout hits northern Puerto Rico following fire, explosion


By Sara Shayanian
12 February 2018

(UPI) – Puerto Ricans were plunged into darkness again Monday after an explosion and fire at a power substation, officials said.

Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA, spokesman Carlos Monroig told CNN the explosion Sunday affected parts of San Juan, Trujillo Alto, Guaynabo, Carolina, Caguas, and Juncos.

The island's electric power authority tweeted that around 400 megawatts of power generation were lost.

The blackout largely affected the northern part of Puerto Rico, just months after Hurricane Maria cut power to the entire island.

Crews have been working for months to restore the electrical grid.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said no casualties were reported from the explosion of fire. [more]

Explosion plunges Puerto Rico back into darkness

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