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Over 1 million electric utility customers without power in Puerto Rico

By on September 7, 2017

SAN JUAN – The executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa), Ricardo Ramos, said Thursday that more than one million, or about 73%, of power utility customers remain without service following Hurricane Irma’s close track over the island Wednesday.

Prepa has about $100 million to carry out repairs, Ramos told Caribbean Business.

Since Tuesday the head of Prepa had been warning of the possibility of an islandwide blackout due to the precarious condition of the electric power infrastructure.

Irma lashes at Puerto Rico, leaves tiny Barbuda devastated

“We have already begun planning all the work to be done. We know which lines are out of service. What we don’t necessarily know is why–whether it was due to disconnection, if a tower fell, if two towers fell, if the conductor unhooked,” Ramos explained in a WKAQ 580 radio interview.

In addition, the executive director also said Prepa’s air units, which were stored for safety in Aguadilla, were being sought to proceed with the “patrols.”

“So now we have an open contract with a private helicopter company and we will be using it from San Juan. We are going to be patrolling toward the west, take advantage of the trip, take our pilots to get the fleet out and from there begin patrolling and mobilize to the metropolitan area,” Ramos said.

Through a video shared in Prepa’s Twitter account, the director said service for 25,000 customers has been restored since midnight. Ramos added that 64 of the utility’s brigades were working throughout the island Thursday.

$100 million fund

Ramos told CB that although that was not the case when the new administration began this year, the utility’s emergency fund is at its required $100 million level.

He added that Prepa’s construction fund and the more than $170 million the public corporation did not use in July to make a debt payment will help it cover the expenses.

“Instead of spending $5 million a week, we were spending $500,000” of the construction fund, Ramos said. “We have also transferred from that fund for the emergency and, obviously, we were supposed to pay $173 million in July 1, but since we are under Title III [of Promesa] we have that money, too.”

Editor’s note: This report has been corrected to reflect that more than one million customers were left without electric power service due to the effects of Hurricane Irma.

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