Officials with Puerto Rico’s power company said Monday that they have restored power to most customers who were hit by a blackout overnight after a fire at a substation, a setback that added to the U.S. territory’s struggle to recover from Hurricane Maria and years of deteriorating infrastructure.
Two power plants that were knocked offline by the fire were repaired by dawn, while crews were still trying to repair two substations, power company spokesman Geraldo Quinones told The Associated Press. Power had returned to Puerto Rico’s largest public hospital and its main international airport.
Quinones said he could not provide any numbers on how many customers remained without power as a result of Sunday’s outage, which affected the island’s northern region.
“They’ll be working throughout today to fully restore service,” he said, adding that authorities are investigating what caused the fire.
Union leader Angel Figueroa said in a phone interview that a breaker normally would have prevented the incident, but that it’s too early to say if the problem was due to mechanical failure or lack of maintenance amid an 11-year recession.
“It’s very strange what happened,” he said.
The outage adds to the woes of an island still struggling to fully restore power more than five months after Hurricane Maria started the longest blackout in U.S. history.
More than 400,000 power customers remain in the dark after the Category 4 storm destroyed two-thirds of the island’s power distribution system and caused up to an estimated $ 94 billion in damage.
The blast also illustrated the challenges of restoring a power grid that was already crumbling before it was devastated by the storm.