By | February 12, 2018

An explosion and fire in a power facility in Puerto Rico Sunday night knocked out power to a densely populated corridor of the island, which is still getting back on its feet from last summer’s devastating hurricanes.

The outage plunged much of the capital San Juan and surrounding neighborhoods into darkness, and served as a reminder of the island territory’s vulnerability to power interruptions.

The explosion caused no injuries, officials said. The cause is under investigation. Outages were expected to last a day or so for most affected.

A power plant fire in 2016 left the island’s 3.4 million residents without electricity for days. Six months after hurricanes Irma and Maria, a quarter of the customers of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or Prepa, remain without power.

Part of the problem, power industry experts say, is that the government-owned utility—which Gov. Ricardo Rosselio said last month he would put up for sale—operates generating plants that are mostly obsolete and require major upgrades or replacement.

The latest outage occurred after a mechanical failure caused a power switch to explode in a transmission center in the capital city of San Juan, said Prepa spokesman Carlos Monroig.

The explosion and an ensuing fire caused the loss of 400 megawatts of generation, Prepa officials said, or enough to power as many as 400,000 homes.

Blackouts were reported across much of San Juan and its suburbs, including to the home of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz —who drew national attention when she scolded President Donald Trump for his handling of the disaster relief to her hurricane-stricken city last year.

One of the messages sent out on the mayor’s Twitter account showed a darkened room in her home, illuminated by one bright light.

“No electricity at home; solar light to the rescue,” the tweet said.

Video posted by Prepa on its Twitter feed showed firefighters extinguishing flames in the power facility. Within hours, power had been restored to many neighborhoods, with most customers expected to see power restored by Monday afternoon, Mr. Monroig said.

Write to Jim Carlton at

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