1.4 million people in Puerto Rico lost power yesterday in an outage that lasted for a day and left part of the island without power even after service was mainly restored.
A private subcontractor working for the power authority was blamed for the outage; according to the Electric Power Authority, the contractor drove an excavator through a critical line; the same contractor has been blamed for a massive outage last month when they knocked a tree-limb into a line.
The subcontractor, Dgrimm, had been hired by Cobra Energy, a private subsidiary of Mammoth Energy working for the Power Authority.
It's a good reminder of how neglected and vulnerable Puerto Rico's infrastructure is, after years of austerity and mismanagement, and also of how easily blame can be diffused among subsidiaries, contractors, and subcontractors.
Puerto Rico is governed by an unelected "manager" who is charged with imposing austerity on the island in order to secure repayment for its offshore lenders. Those plans include fully privatizing the ailing, debt-saddled Power Authority.
Justo González, an executive deputy director of the power authority, said Wednesday that the blackout was caused by a private contractor when a bulldozer downed a transmission line while trying to remove a collapsed tower.
The latest blackout came just one week after 840,000 customers were left without power after a tree fell on another power line in the center of the island in a major outage caused by the same subcontractor, according to officials. A backup line that was supposed to prevent such an outage also failed.
The subcontractor involved in Wednesday's and last week's failures was fired and will no longer be helping with restoration efforts, Quiñones said Wednesday.
Excavator blamed for island-wide blackout in Puerto Rico [Danica Coto/AP]
Power in Puerto Rico largely restored after islandwide blackout [Daniella Silva/NBC]