Puerto Rico, Still Reeling from Hurricane Maria, Is Hit by an Island-Wide Blackout

Millions of Americans are without power.

Ricardo Arduengo via ZUMA Wire

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Puerto Rico’s power grid collapsed again on Wednesday, according to multiple reports.

The grid has been unstable since Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September. In the town where the storm made landfall, just 35 percent of residents had power when Mother Jones reporter AJ Vicens visited last month.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz tweeted about the collapse on Wednesday morning, calling it a return to the day Maria first struck Puerto Rico. 

Officials say it could take 24 to 36 hours to restore power to the island, home to more than three million American citizens.

In a series of tweets in the afternoon, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello identified the culprit: an excavator that hit a crucial power line. Rossello blamed the outage on Cobra, an energy company contracted to restore the island’s electrical infrastructure, saying it was “directly responsible.” Cobra’s contract was increased to $945 million in February.

Earlier in the day, ranking House Democrats from the committees on energy and commerce, transportation and infrastructure, homeland security, and national resources wrote to Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long, asking him to extend the Army Corps of Engineers’ assignment in Puerto Rico. The assignment—to help restore electricity—is currently scheduled to end on May 18.

This post has been updated to reflect new developments.

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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