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Prolonged power outages plague Puerto Rico

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Towns in central and southern Puerto Rico are currently grappling with a severe power outage that began over a week ago, prompting the activation of an emergency response team. 

Authorities in the US territory have also initiated food distributions to support those affected by the outage. This crisis arises as the region faces excessive heat warnings daily and the onset of the Atlantic hurricane season.

Infrastructure failures and public outcry

According to the Associated Press (AP), the outage was triggered by the failure of a transformer that had been operating well beyond its intended lifespan, impacting tens of thousands of residents.

Luma Energy, responsible for the power transmission and distribution, indicated that repairs might extend beyond a month. This delay has incited significant public frustration, exacerbated by disruptions in water service during this critical period.

Calls for government action

Amidst the crisis, calls for Governor Pedro Pierluisi to declare a state of emergency have grown louder. Legislators and residents alike express their distress, with concerns about the sustainability of living conditions without basic utilities. 

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The situation is particularly dire in towns like Santa Isabel, Coamo, and Aibonito, where the demand for immediate resolution is escalating.

The struggle to cope

The power outage has not only left residents without electricity but has also led to substantial losses, with some unable to afford alternative power sources like generators. 

For example, in Coamo, residents have adapted a local music school into a community kitchen to prepare and distribute meals to those in need, highlighting the community’s resilience and solidarity in times of hardship.

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Economic strain and health risks

The extended blackouts add another layer of difficulty for Puerto Rico’s residents, who already face a high cost of living. 

The lack of power affects essential services, including healthcare, as evidenced by one resident’s struggle to contact his cardiologist due to downed phone lines, delaying critical medical prescriptions.

Persistent Infrastructure Challenges

Puerto Rico has faced recurring power disruptions since the devastation of Hurricane María in 2017, which decimated the island’s fragile electrical grid.

The current power generation infrastructure relies heavily on fossil fuels, and although there is a push for renewable energy, progress is slow. 

Additionally, policy disputes over net metering for solar energy have created barriers to improving the grid’s resilience and sustainability.

The ongoing power outages disproportionately affect the elderly and low-income families, who are least able to navigate these recurrent crises. 

Local efforts to mitigate the impact are poignant, with individuals like Madelyn Vives prioritizing the needs of vulnerable family members in these challenging times.

This prolonged power crisis in Puerto Rico underscores the urgent need for robust infrastructure improvements and more efficient crisis management to ensure the well-being of its residents, especially with the looming threats of natural disasters.

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