Blackout Hits Northern Puerto Rico Following Explosion, Fire

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Puerto Ricans were plunged into darkness again Monday after an explosion and fire at a power substation, officials said.

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA, says several areas are without power, after an explosion and fire at the substation in Monacillo on the outskirts of the capital, San Juan.

Utility workers are racing to restore power on the island; Laura Ingle has the story for 'Special Report'.

In many cases, power workers are repairing equipment that should have always been replaced but remained online due to the power authority's long financial crisis.

"They'll be working throughout today to fully restore service", he said, adding that authorities are investigating what caused the fire.

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The power authority said the island lost at least 400 megawatts worth of power generation. The state-owned power company is worth roughly $4 billion, carries $9 billion in debt and has always been criticized for political patronage and inefficiency. It also struggled with frequent blackouts, including an island-wide outage in September 2016.

"We are trying to restore that as quickly as possible", the company said.

Witnesses described a loud explosion at the Monacillos facility which sent out flames and smoke high in the air and knocked out two other substations in an apparent chain reaction. San Juan Mayor Carmen Cruz tweeted that no injuries had been reported and that firefighters were on the scene.

The blackout comes as almost 500,000 of AEE's 1.6 million customers remain without power since Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the USA territory in September 2017. The storm killed dozens and left the entire island without power at a time when it was already trudging through the largest government bankruptcy in the United States history, with some $120 billion in combined bond and pension debt. It would be the largest restructuring of a public entity in US history.

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