Resilience Natural Disasters

Major power plant severely damaged as Puerto Rico reels from earthquake

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Story at a glance

  • Puerto Rico’s Governor and Electric Energy Authority confirmed the Costa Sur Plant sustained severe damage during the quake.
  • Two-thirds of the island are without power despite electricity from other plants.
  • Conflicting reports state that the Costa Sur plant may be down for a year, but the island is steadily generating more power.

Two-thirds of Puerto Rico is without power after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake severely damaged a major power plant.

Some power plant employees were injured during the earthquake, which has left multiple homes and buildings in ruins and killed one man.

The Costa Sur Power Plant, located in Guayanilla, generates about 40 percent of the island’s electricity and is said to have sustained major damages.

Speaking to CBS News, Jose Ortiz, the head of the island’s Electric Energy Authority, said the plant might be out of operation for more than a year.

Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vásquez Garced visited the Costa Sur Plant and said“We can verify that [the power plant] has suffered severe damages in the infrastructure, to the point where employees were injured.”

One of the injuries stemmed from a wall falling on an employee. The worker is in stable condition.

The plant sustained major damages that Garced said could be “irreparable.” Due to the significant damages, engineers may work on generating power from another plant, one that has received federal funds for improvements.

By Tuesday night — the day after the earthquake — 97 percent of Puerto Rico was without power. Approximately one-third of the Electric Energy Authority’s 1.5 million customers were able to recover their power by Wednesday morning, according to reports.

Authorities had worked through the night to activate all of the power plants on the island. It was not clear, however, if the other plants were able to generate sufficient electricity to compensate for the Costa Sur Plant outage.

Ortiz said power will be reestablished gradually so as not to overload the frail system.

According to the company’s Twitter account, the Energy Electric Authority has been successful in gradually reactivating power, saying on Wednesday that it had generated 542 megawatts before increasing to 1065 megawatts the following day.

Both President Trump and Garced declared a state of emergency in Puerto Rico amid the damage and displacement of residents. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has allocated funds for disaster relief, and Garced assigned $130 million to support the recovery.

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