Puerto Rico Slammed By Massive New Power Outage

Controversial contractor Whitefish Energy had worked on the transmission line that failed.

San Juan and at least six other cities in Puerto Rico were plunged into darkness again Thursday morning when a major transmission line failed, authorities reported. Puerto Rico’s federal emergency command center went dark when the power cut out.

The controversial Montana company Whitefish Energy Holdings had worked on the line before its $300 million contract was revoked late last month and had declared it repaired in an Oct. 26 Twitter post. Whitefish said in a statement to The Hill that the failure didn’t have “anything to do with the repairs Whitefish Energy performed.” The FBI is reportedly investigation how Whitefish, a tiny company with connections to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, won the contract.

Only 43 percent of the island’s power had been restored before Thursday. With the line failure, that dropped to just 18 percent. The power line runs from Cambalache to Manatí near the north coast and services the northern half of the island, officials said.

About 25 percent of the power had been restored by Thursday night, and officials hoped 42 percent would be back by Friday, Ricardo Ramos Rodriguez, executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), told CNN. He didn’t know the reason for Thursday’s failure.

Justo González, PREPA’s director of generation, said on a Facebook video that returning power to hospitals, airports, and fire and police stations would be a priority.

The demoralizing setback occurred just days after some of the same regions of the island were beginning to get back on line more than six weeks after Hurricane Maria. 

The power meltdown occurred as FEMA was making arrangements to transport Puerto Ricans displaced by the hurricane to hotels in Florida and New York as much of the island remains devastated. It’s the first such plan of its kind by FEMA. Nearly 3,000 Puerto Ricans are still living in shelters, but FEMA insists few of them seem interested in leaving the island, NPR reported.

About 140,000 Puerto Ricans have already left on their own for Florida, according to Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

Restoration of power and running water, delivery of food to hungry citizens, construction and repair of buildings, and the reopening of schools are severely lagging. Donald Trump has said he would score a “10 out of 10” for his response to the Puerto Rican devastation. “We have provided so much, so fast,” he said in mid-October, a month after Maria hit, when 80 percent of the island had no power and 30 percent had no running water.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz slammed the federal government’s response. 

“We are dying here, and I cannot fathom the thought that the greatest nation in the world cannot figure out logistics for a small island of 100 miles by 35 miles,” she said at a news conference in late September. “Mayday! We are in trouble.”

Trump responded in a tweet that she was “nasty.”