There are still more that 660,000 customers without power across Puerto Rico, over three months after Category 4 Hurricane Maria slammed the U.S. territory. The revelation that so many people remain without electricity has sparked outrage, as some islanders accuse officials of mismanaging their response to the storm.
The government of Puerto Rico said Friday that 55 percent of Puerto Rico’s nearly 1.5 million customers have power, which is the first time the public was made aware of the number of residents living without the resource, according to the Associated Press. Authorities used the announcement to warn the public that recovery efforts continue, but there is much work to do as crews are still finding unexpected damage from Maria – the hurricane that hit the island on Sept. 20.
Now, three months after Maria wreaked its havoc there, many Puerto Ricans are angered by the delay in recovery and restoration.
“It’s just extraordinary that it is still so far away from being 100 percent recovered,” said Susan Tierney, a senior adviser for Analysis Group. Tierney testified before a U.S. Senate committee about efforts to restore power in Puerto Rico.
“I’m not aware of any time in recent decades since the U.S. has electrified the entire economy that there has been an outage of this magnitude,” Tierney said.
One of the customers still waiting for electricity is Christian Pagan, 58. He blames the government for the continued outage. Responding to the governments’ explanations, Pagan said, “The first month was lost to bureaucracy and an uncoordinated reaction.”
Pagan targeted the power company’s former director, Ricardo Ramos, with criticism as well, saying Ramos did not activate mutual-aid agreements with power companies in the U.S. mainland ahead of time.
“That’s the kind of help you ask for three days before the hurricane,” Pagan said.
Ramos resigned in late October.
According to the AP, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers believes all of Puerto Rico will have power restored by May. They cite the island’s rough terrain, lack of supplies and an aging infrastructure -which was not maintained due to the island’s 11-year recession- as the reason for the slow restoration.
Government officials say nearly 14,000 poles have been shipped to Puerto Rico, and that another 7,000 will arrive in upcoming days, while around 3,500 workers toil to restore power across the island, including working through the holidays.
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