Explosion Causes Major Power Outage in Puerto Rico
Monacillos Substation Fire May Have Affected Some 700,000 Customers
SAN JUAN — A large fire in a main Puerto Rico power substation at one point reportedly left some 700,000 customers of the island grid’s new transmission and distribution concessionaire in the dark Thursday.
“A fire broke out in a transformer at LUMA’s Monacillo substation. Protection systems interrupted electrical service. The restoration will begin in 2 hours and will continue overnight,” the new company said on Twitter.
According to Fire Department reports, a fire was reported at the Monacillos station in Río Piedras at around 6:11 p.m. The fire was of such magnitude that the smell of burning oil still lingered in surrounding urbanizations an hour after it began. It has since been put out, Caribbean Business confirmed.
LUMA Energy took over the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (Prepa) transmission and distribution and customer services only a week ago.Caribbean Business Sources said Prepa was providing support to LUMA, but that it is now the latter’s responsibility to address the incident.
While sectors without service were reported all over the island, apparently only those transmission systems that can be isolated from the central system were in service or have been able to start the recovery process.
The situation adds to the people’s dissatisfaction due to the continuous blackouts and the slow pace dealing with outages during the first days of LUMA operations.
Ángel Figueroa Jaramillo, president of the Irrigation and Electrical Workers Union (Utier by its Spanish acronym), which represented Prepa employees, said in a WKAQ Radio interview that LUMA obtained absolute control of the entire operation in Monacillos before before officially serving as its operator July 1.
The union leader said that Thursday’s incident could not be attributed to sabotage, and that a similar fire occurred four years ago, but was found to be caused by human error.