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Power transmission, distribution systems devastated in Puerto Rico

By on September 24, 2017

Shortly before Sunday noon, the Puerto Rico government had already evaluated half of its energy system and damage to the distribution and transmission infrastructure is already “devastating,” according to Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares.

“The towers that were left virtually intact [hurricane] Irma, now there is devastation,” the governor told the press at the Puerto Rico Convention Center, which serves as the government’s command center.

The preliminary evaluation of the electric power system is expected to be completed on Monday, La Fortaleza further stated.

Gov. Rosselló recalled that some areas adjacent to the San Pablo Hospital in Bayamón already have the service, while the government works to energize the Medical Center. The latter serves as the main health center to receive and serve patients from all over the island.

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On the expectations that it will take months before the system returns to normal, the governor acknowledged that the damages to the infrastructure are significant, but people must not be misinformed or over alarmed.

“I know they have reported that we will be 100% without power for six months. Comparisons are with other storms. What it is referring to is that, for example, [hurricane] Hugo took six months to restore the complete system. But there were people who had power within a month […] It is a gradual,” said Rosselló, who reiterated that the situation remains critical and that it will take time to restore the system.

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Gov. Rosselló also announced the repair of the submarine fiber optic cable that enters through Isla Verde, after it was affected by the flooding caused by Hurricane María. It would improve Internet services and long distance calls.

The reestablishment of telecommunications in Puerto Rico is one of the government’s immediate priorities in the recovery efforts. As of Saturday, the telecommunications system operated at 20% to 25% of its capacity, mostly in the metropolitan area. The island has about 1,700 towers, according to government officials.

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“There are some parts that will take more time than others … If we do not have accessibility to the [communication] towers, it is very difficult for us,” Rosselló said.

He explained that the protocol calls for identifying which towers operate to ensure that their generators have enough fuel. Those that didn’t suffer damages to its infrastructure, but have no generator, will receive one so they can become online.

Both the government and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are receiving and mobilizing generators to various critical areas on the island, including communications towers.

Companies such as AT&T and Claro are also waiting for staff and equipment to arrive to Puerto Rico from Jacksonville, Fla., and the Dominican Republic, respectively.

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