Puerto Rico slowly emerges from blackout

Danica Coto
Associated Press

San Juan, Puerto Rico — Frustration mounted across Puerto Rico on Friday amid record-high heat as the U.S. territory struggled to restore electricity more than two days after a power plant fire caused an island-wide blackout when it shut down an aging utility grid.

Cheers were intermixed with groans as power came and went during the day, frustrating some who had already stocked up at the supermarket and others who complained that the surges were damaging their home appliances.

Roughly 75 percent of 1.5 million homes and businesses served by the island’s power company had electricity restored by late Friday, but officials warned that number would keep fluctuating. Around 200,000 of those customers were temporarily knocked off the grid Friday afternoon when a privately run plant failed and caused the temporary collapse of two larger public power plants that it was feeding, said Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla.

“There may be setbacks that we can’t anticipate,” he said during a press conference late Friday.

Garcia said he expected that the majority of customers would have power by the time they woke up on Saturday.

“But, again, this is a very, very ambitious goal,” he said, adding: “I want people to start their week without any problems.”

Javier Quintana, executive director of Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority, warned that power would come and go given the increase in demand as more customers came online. Both he and Garcia urged Puerto Ricans to be prudent in their use of electricity.

Those without power became increasingly disgruntled by Friday afternoon, when the heat index reached 106 degrees and meteorologists announced that a record high temperature was set. Many worried about spending a third night in darkness with no air conditioning or fans.