An island-wide blackout struck Puerto Rico on Wednesday, plunging the U.S. territory of more than 3 million citizens back into darkness more than seven months after Hurricane Maria demolished its fragile power grid.
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority said the blackout, which began about 11:30 a.m., could last from 24 to 36 hours. About 5 p.m., the local utility said more than 51,000 customers had power.
The local utility said it detected a failure on a prominent distribution line that connects a major generating station in the south of the island to substations in the north, where most of the population lives.
Maria “Mayita” Melendez of Ponce, a large city on Puerto Rico’s southern coast, said PREPA told her that workers for Cobra Energy were moving a tower near Aguirre, one of the island’s major generating plants, when an excavator struck a major distribution line, causing a change in voltage that created a chain reaction.
In a video statement Wednesday afternoon, PREPA interim director Justo Gonzalez said that when the line failed, the central generating plant in the south stopped functioning and seven major plants along the southern coast collapsed one by one.