Thousands of Puerto Ricans Still Without Power as Hurricane Season Begins
Puerto Rico is still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Maria last fall, with over 11,000 residents still living without a steady source of power. The country‘s power grid has suffered immensely, with the director of the island’s power company estimating that it could still be another two full months before its full power is restored. However, experts warn that if another hurricane were to hit the island, it would result in severe disaster for Puerto Rico, delaying the island’s progress in rebuilding.
After a Harvard-sponsored study calculated that Hurricane Maria was responsible for nearly 5,000 deaths on the island last fall, there has been a heavily renewed concern over the safety of the infrastructure and the people who have been affected. Researchers stated that this high level of mortality, which is now 70 times the initially reported death toll, was caused by the “interruption of medical care”. A now famous photo tweeted by former Puerto Rican governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla shows surgeons attempting to operate on a patient using cell phone flashlights as their only source of light.
This is what POTUS calls a 10! Surgery performed with cellphones as flashlights in Puerto Rico today. pic.twitter.com/5pnK5dkkE6
— Alejandro (@agarciapadilla) October 21, 2017
In the eight month aftermath of the devastating hurricane, the island has been working hard to rebuild its destroyed power grid, but the majority of completed repairs have fallen way below the necessary industry standards. Power authority workers’ union Vice President Fredyson Martinez told The Times, “The logistics were terrible. I give it an F. Things need to be fixed.”
So far, there has been over $3.8 billion in repairs, with relief workers and nonprofits stepping in to install solar panels along the roofs of Puerto Rican residents. Despite this, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority director Walt Higgans said it could take up to $8 billion to bring the entire grid up to modern standards. One of the first requests made by residents is getting energy to power a refrigerator to help keep food cold and properly preserved. Others hope for energy to power fans to keep cool during the hot and humid summer months.
FEMA recently announced they would no longer be providing line restoration work to assist PREPA in repairing the grid. However, with the absence of FEMA, Tesla has stepped in to support the Puerto Rican people through their involvement in over 11,000 projects throughout the island. Some of these projects include restoring power to a sanitary sewer treatment plant, a water pumping station, an elderly community, a hospital, and a Boys and Girls Club. Tesla has been combining its Powerpack systems with existing solar arrays to establish microgrids, a temporary solution until the island primary energy grid is fully restored.