PanaTimes

Saturday, Feb 04, 2023

Thousands still without power weeks after Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico

Thousands still without power weeks after Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico

High temperatures, rain and mosquitoes make life unbearable for those still affected by the longest blackout in US history
Alexis Robles has slept a mere three hours a night since Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico on 18 September, causing a total blackout across the Caribbean island.

Robles, 52, a systems analyst in the seaside town of Cabo Rojo in south-west Puerto Rico, has been living without power for 25 days.

At night, the temperature barely dips below 80F, and Robles wakes up after an hour or two covered in sweat. The days are marked by high temperatures and rain, and without a fan or air conditioning the mosquitoes are unbearable.

Robles lives in an 80-apartment condominium complex with a backup generator that produces only enough electricity to power the water pump and light the communal areas after dark. Those with somewhere else to go have left, he says; the remaining residents are just trying to get by.

“We have no electricity during the day, people here are desperate, just trying to survive, worried that this could end up like Maria,” said Robles.

Fiona, a category 1 storm when it struck the island and the first major hurricane of the 2022 season, hit Puerto Rico exactly five years after hurricanes Irma and Maria made landfall two weeks apart, destroying much of the island’s electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure, leading to thousands of preventable deaths and the longest blackout in US history.

The storm left the vast majority of Puerto Rico and its 3 million residents without power or water for several days.

After Maria, Robles and his neighbours were left without power for five months. Now, three and half weeks after Fiona, they have no idea when electricity will be restored.

“What infuriates us the most is that Luma is claiming most of the island has power, when that is obviously not true,” said Robles, referring to the private US-Canadian consortium that took over electricity transmission and distribution in June 2021.

Luma claims it has restored power to 99% of homes and businesses. But three and a half weeks on, about 20,000 customers – the equivalent of 40,000 people – remain without power, according to the company’s own figures. The worst-affected neighbourhoods are in the south and south-west of the island, where Fiona made landfall.

Andrés Gutiérrez, a general physician in Cabo Rojo, said around a third of the town’s 50,000 inhabitants remain without power – including many of his patients. Electricity posts are still down, cables damaged by falling vegetation – which many Puerto Ricans blame on the lack of regular maintenance.

“The situation is very tense, people are tired of being stuck in the middle of Luma and political interests. We pay so much for electricity and billions of dollars have gone into the system that is basically obsolete,” said Gutiérrez, 46, who also went five months without power after Maria.

Luma claims to have restored power to his street, he said, but half the homes still don’t have any service from the grid and rely on backup generators and solar panels.

They are among the lucky ones able to invest in backups after Maria, Gutiérrez said, but for many on low incomes – including some of his patients – this wasn’t an option. “I have diabetic patients living off fast food and bread because the refrigerator is off – it’s causing a domino effect on people’s health,” he said.

Over the past two decades, Puerto Rico – along with Haiti and Myanmar – has been among three territories most affected by extreme weather such as storms, floods, heatwaves and droughts, according to the Germanwatch Climate Risk Index, which are becoming more intense due to global heating.

As those threats increase, Fiona for many residents has illustrated the ongoing fragility of the island’s energy system – despite the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) having approved an unprecedented $16bn for reconstruction and mitigation.

Much of the existing energy infrastructure – plants, transmitter towers, poles and cables – is in flood-prone areas or at risk of sea level rise, storm surges and tsunamis, as well as strong winds and earthquake damage. None of the federal funds have been allocated to distributed rooftop solar – a decentralised energy alternative which grassroot activists and environmental experts argue would be cheaper, cleaner and more resilient.

About 10 miles north-east of Cabo Rojo on the outskirts of the city of Mayagüez, another doctor, Alfredo Pérez, is spending more than $40 a day on diesel to power his generator – a polluting luxury that has been in short supply.

Pérez, 57, a neurologist, also has many patients without electricity including an elderly neighbour with Parkinson’s disease whose wife is fretting about how long this power outage will go on. “This was only a category 1, and here we are again, 25 days later waiting for answers.”

Luma has been contacted for comment.
Newsletter

Related Articles

PanaTimes
Close
0:00
0:00
Tennessee Bill Would Imprison People for 3 Years If They 'Lie' About Rape to Get an Abortion.
Charlie Munger, calls for a ban on cryptocurrencies in the US, following China's lead
EU found a way to use frozen Russian funds
First generation unopened iPhone set to fetch more than $50,000 at auction.
WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT - US Memphis Police murdering innocent Tyre Nichols
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he will block Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from serving on the House Intelligence Committee
Almost 30% of professionals say they've tried ChatGPT at work
Interpol seeks woman who ran elaborate exam cheating scam in Singapore
What is ChatGPT?
Bill Gates is ‘very optimistic’ about the future: ‘Better to be born 20 years from now...than any time in the past’
Tesla reported record profits and record revenues for 2022
Germany confirms it will provide Ukraine with Leopard 2 tanks
Prince Andrew and Virginia Giuffre Photo Is Fake: Ghislaine Maxwell
Opinion | Israel’s Supreme Court Claims a Veto on Democracy
Moonwalker Buzz Aldrin Gets Married On His 93rd Birthday
Who’s Threatening Israeli Democracy?
Federal Reserve Probes Goldman’s Consumer Business
China's first population drop in six decades
Microsoft is finalising plans to become the latest technology giant to reduce its workforce during a global economic slowdown
Tesla slashes prices globally by as much as 20 percent
1.4 Million Copies Of Prince Harry's Memoir 'Spare' Sold On 1st Day In UK
After Failing To Pay Office Rent, Twitter May Sell User Names
Lisa Marie Presley, singer and daughter of Elvis, dies aged 54
FIFA president questioned by prosecutors
Britain's Sunak breaks silence and admits using private healthcare
Hype and backlash as Harry's memoir goes on sale. Unnamed royal source says prince 'kidnapped by cult of psychotherapy and Meghan'
Saudi Arabia set to overtake India as fastest-growing major economy this year 
Google and Facebook’s dominance in digital ads challenged by rapid ascent of Amazon and TikTok
FTX fraud investigators are digging deeper into Sam Bankman-Fried's inner circle – and reportedly have ex-engineer Nishad Singh in their sights
TikTok CEO Plans to Meet European Union Regulators
France has banned the online sale of paracetamol until February, citing ongoing supply issues
Japan reportedly to give families 1 million yen per child to move out of Tokyo
Will Canada ever become a real democracy?
Hong Kong property brokerages slash payrolls in choppy market
U.S. Moves to Seize Robinhood Shares, Silvergate Accounts Tied to FTX
Effect of EU sanctions on Moscow is ‘less than zero’ – Belgian MEP
Coinbase to Pay $100 Million in Settlement With New York Regulator
FTX assets worth $3.5bn held by Bahamas securities regulator
A Republican congressman-elect is under investigation in New York after he admitted he lied about his education and work experience.
Brazilian football legend Pele, arguably the greatest player ever, has died at the age of 82.
Hong Kong to scrap almost all its Covid rules
EU calls screening of travellers from China unjustified
US imposes Covid testing for visitors from China
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Addresses Joint Session of Congress - FULL SPEECH
Where is Rishi? Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's excuses about the UK's economic challenges just don't make sense
Former FTX CEO Bankman-Fried finally arrested in Bahamas after U.S. files charges
Corruption works: House Financial Services Chair Waters doesn't plan to subpoena her donor, Sam Bankman-Fried, to testify at hearing on FTX collapse
Ronaldo's new contract...
Prince William's godmother resigns honorary royal role after exposing her/their racism
Tax fraud verdict again exposes illusion of Trump the master businessman
×