An island-wide blackout has struck Puerto Rico, plunging the U.S. territory of more than 3 million citizens back into darkness more than seven months after local and federal officials began working to restore a fragile power grid demolished by Hurricane Maria.
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority said the blackout could last anywhere from 24 to 36 hours. The local utility said it detected a failure on a prominent distribution line that connects a major generating station in the south of the island to substations in the north, where most of the population lives.
PREPA’s interim director, Justo Gonzalez, told the local Telemundo news station that his workers are investigating whether the outage was caused by an internal failure or an external force. The agency blamed a fallen tree for an outage that cut power to 900,000 people last week.
The priority is to restore service to critical structures such as hospitals, the airport, water pumps and banks, according to the agency’s Twitter account.
The power outage comes two days after PREPA published an online video celebrating the restoration of electric service to 97 percent of their customers.
It is the first island-wide power outage since the storm.
In recent months, the island has experienced a series of small, regional blackouts as well as wide-ranging outages, such as one last week that left nearly 1 million people without power.
Tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans living in communities located in the east and central regions of the island had yet to see their lights come back on since the hurricane. The restoration campaign has been plagued by political power struggles, rough terrain and logistical nightmares that have slowed and frustrated the populace and local leaders.