Puerto Rico’s power outage worries many during heat advisories

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A utility pole with loose cables towers over a home in Loiza, Puerto Rico, Sept 15, 2022. (AP)

COAMO, Puerto Rico, June 11, (AP): Towns in central and southern Puerto Rico are struggling to emerge from a prolonged power outage that forced authorities in the US territory to activate an emergency response team on Monday and request food distribution to those in need.
The outage occurred more than a week ago, leaving tens of thousands of clients without power after a transformer that twice exceeded its useful life collapsed.
Officials with Luma Energy, which operates transmission and distribution for Puerto Rico’s power authority, have said repairs could take more than a month. The announcement sparked widespread anger, especially since the outage has disrupted water service and comes amid daily excessive heat warnings, with the Atlantic hurricane season just starting.
Some politicians are demanding that Gov Pedro Pierluisi declare a state of emergency.
“The people of Santa Isabel, Coamo and Aibonito cannot endure another day without electricity,” Puerto Rico Sen Héctor Santiago Torres said on Monday, referring to towns in the Caribbean island’s central and southern regions. “This situation is unsustainable.”
More than 40% of Puerto Rico’s 3.2 million people live below the poverty level, and not everyone can afford generators or replace costly electric appliances damaged by the outages.
“My fridge broke because of the voltage issues, so I had to throw away all the spoiled food,” said Carmen Franco, 68, as she spoke over the roar of generators in the southern town of Coamo, where she joined dozens awaiting a free lunch on Saturday.
Officials had transformed a music school into a huge kitchen as people cooked rice and chicken, delivering hundreds of lunches to hard-to-reach areas in the town, where nearly a fifth of the population is over the age of 65.
“Clearly, we are not prepared for this,” Coamo Mayor Juan Carlos García Padilla said of the ongoing outages. He told The Associated Press that residents already are struggling with a high cost of living. “They don’t have anything left over to save.”

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