Crisis in Puerto Rico deepens as generator fuel supplies run low
- The crisis in Puerto Rico is worsening as generators at critical facilities on the island run short on fuel — particularly at hospitals struggling to maintain care for those who have not been evacuated to other locations.
- According to Reuters, fuel for some critical care facilities is being delivered by armed guards to avoid the potential for looting. Generators are low on diesel fuel, and at the island's gas stations, wait times can stretch hours.
- Officials from the mainland have flown down to assess the situation and offer help. New York Power Authority President Gil Quiniones, speaking with Reuters, appeared to question the time taken to assess damage to the island's system.
There is still no firm estimate on how long Puerto Rico's electric system could be in shambles, as damage assessments are beginning to wrap up, but Quiniones said things should be moving faster.
“They should be complete with their initial damage assessment in days or maybe a week — not weeks or months,” Quiniones told Reuters. He traveled to the island with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Friday, taking with him a 10-person NYPA team.
Cuomo this morning tweeted that almost 45% of the island's 3.5 million residents lack clean drinking water. "That's 1.5 million Americans in humanitarian crisis," he wrote, while calling on the federal government to do more.
Repairing the damaged system could take multiple months, officials have said — possibly as long as half a year. The primary issue is downed transmission lines, while the island's power generation facilities escaped significant damage. Poles and transmission towers are down around the island, at some points falling across roads and making navigation difficult.
According to Bloomberg, only 11 of 69 hospitals have fuel or power, and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) has said the island needs 200 generators, along with a rebuild of its power lines and workers to help accomplish the task.
According to the American Public Power Association, some 55% of transmission towers in Puerto Rico may be down and more than 90% of the distribution system could potentially be destroyed.
Hurricane Maria hit the island about a week ago, making landfall with winds of 155 mph and knocking out power to nearly all of the 3.5 million residents of the U.S. territory. The storm came after a glancing blow from Hurricane Irma weeks earlier, which put more than a million people in the dark on the island.
Restoration and aid efforts are being hampered by Puerto Rico's distance off the American mainland. In Florida, power has been restored to more than 99% of customers following the impacts of Hurricane Irma, which hit the state the previous week. But the state had tens of thousands of line workers on hand for the repair, and driving in supplies from neighboring states was not a problem.
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