SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico was slowly recovering on Wednesday its electrical service after the magnitude-6.4 earthquake that rocked the island, while aid to the towns in the southwest, where the damage is concentrated and about 2,000 people are homeless, is increasing.
The state-run Electric Energy Authority (AEE) reported that, according to the latest available figures, 700,000 customers have had their power restored, an important achievement, although it warned that the situation will not be completely stabilized until the weekend.
AEE CEO Jose Ortiz emphasized that the recovery is moving more quickly in the San Juan metro area while in the south it is progressing more slowly.
The public firm expects to be able to bring new electrical plants online in the coming weeks and that should help to create a more robust power grid that will provide a solution to the obsolete infrastructure that the quake – which struck right where the island’s main electrical plants are located – left considerably weakened.
The quake, considered to be the most powerful in Puerto Rico’s recent history, resulted in significant damage to the EcoElectrica and Costa Sur plants, causing the entire power system to go offline.
One man was killed in the quake when a wall collapsed on him.
The temblor also damaged many homes, several hundred of them in the southwestern portion of the island, although the government has not yet released an official tally.
The majority of those structures partially collapsed when the slender columns supporting them gave way, a common structural feature of homes in Puerto Rico’s lower income areas.
The quake followed an earlier temblor on Monday measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale that had already weakened a number of buildings.
There is no data on the number of people injured in the incident.
The damage was aggravated by the fact that in Puerto Rico there are approximately 200,000 homes that have been built without construction permits – and thus which are possibly not up to code – and another 150,000 that are built on slender columns.
The aim of the island’s government, headed by Wanda Vazquez, now is to increase the aid to people who suffered property damage, and she asked US authorities to declare an emergency on the island.
President Donald Trump approved the emergency declaration and ordered the dispatch of assistance to complement the local aid in response to the quake.
The president’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate their efforts to alleviate the suffering caused by the quake and provide appropriate assistance, a US government statement said.
The population of the US commonwealth, especially in the island’s southwest, is experiencing great anxiety in the wake of the quake, however, and many people spent the night out on the streets out of fear that their homes might collapse on them.