SAN JUAN – The entire island of Puerto Rico is still without electricity in the wake of Hurricane Maria, the director of the United States commonwealth’s electric power authority said on Saturday.
Ricardo Ramos told local media it would take some time to fully restore electricity, adding that Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) technicians and experts had begun repair work on the grid.
“We’ve begun aerial inspections of the electrical system, and the damage to the electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure is devastating,” he said.
The PREPA chief said the task of restoring power would begin at the island’s hospitals.
The next priorities will be the Puerto Rico Aqueducts and Sewers Authority, the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources of Puerto Rico, industrial facilities and shelters, Ramos said.
Maria, which made landfall in southeast Puerto Rico Wednesday morning as a major Category 4 hurricane and then carved a southeast-to-northwest path of destruction through the island, left at least seven people dead on the US commonwealth, according to figures provided Friday by Gov. Ricardo Rossello.
Municipal authorities, however, put the death toll at more than a dozen.
Three days after Maria battered Puerto Rico, only 25 percent of the island has water service and 85 percent of the telecommunications infrastructure is non-functional.
Maria, now a Category 3 hurricane, is currently located 270 kilometers (168 miles) east-northeast of San Salvador Island, a district of the Bahamas, the US National Hurricane Center said in a 5 am Saturday bulletin.
It is forecast to continue moving north-northwest on Saturday, a track that will take it away from the Bahamas and into the open waters of the western Atlantic, the NHC said.
No coastal watches or warnings are currently in effect.
Preliminary figures put the total death toll from Maria in the Caribbean at 40 – including 30 on the small island of Dominica, according to the local government-owned Dominica Broadcasting Corporation – although that total could rise in the coming hours.