Puerto Rico’s sole provider of electricity for 1.5 million residents says power has been returned to all homes that lost electricity from Hurricane Maria last September.
Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority identified a family near the mountainous, rural barrios of Real and Anón, in Ponce, a city and municipality in the island’s south, as their final customers to receive returned power. PREPA tweeted their image.
A PREPA engineer told ABC News that bringing power to the rural area took “more than two weeks working to make roads and excavators bringing and raising electrical poles.”
The blackout in Hurricane Maria’s wake was one of the largest ever. More than 160,000 Puerto Rican homes were damaged or destroyed. Power restoration cost more than $3 billion and was mired in controversy: PREPA’s seen five CEOs in the 11 months since the storm.
One of those CEOs, former General Electric executive Rafael Díaz Granados, resigned in July, rather than accept demands by the island’s Gov. Ricardo Rosselló that his $750,000 salary be reduced. PREPA is bankrupt and $9 billion in debt. In January, Rosselló announced plans to sell the insolvent company.
For months following the hurricane, the Federal Emergency Management Agency helped repair the island’s power grid. However, in July FEMA’s assistance ended while about 16,000 homes remained without electricity, despite urging from Puerto Rico’s Congressional representative for the agency to extend its contract.
Many experts say that despite PREPA’s efforts, the island’s grid remains as fragile as it was before the storm. Plans to improve it are underway and will cost $26 billion more, according to a report submitted to Congress earlier this month. Days before, a federal judge ruled that the island doesn’t have final say over its finances, a decision that has already cut into public assistance.
Some Puerto Ricans say PREPA’s claims of total restorations are false. Residents in El Yunque National Forest in the island’s northeast tell CNN that power has yet to be restored “because of a back-and-forth with the U.S. Forest Service and PREPA.”