Governor: Public employees back to work, schools reopen today
By John McPhaul
Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said Sunday on his social network accounts that today would be a regular workday for government employees and a regular school day at island schools.
“Tomorrow [Monday] will be a regular workday for the government of Puerto Rico,” the governor said on Twitter. “Also, the school system will return to educational work. Together we continue to take our island forward.”
The island Education Department reported that 93% of schools -- 818 -- now have electricity and internet.
“The security division of the [Education Department] is verifying those that still lack electricity in order to work with [grid operator] LUMA [Energy] and prioritize connection at the rest of the schools,” the Education Department said in a press release.
On Sunday, 1.46 million of the 1.5 million Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) clients had electricity, according to the agency.
“We’ve been encouraging all of our customers to conserve energy through the weekend,” Wayne Stensby, president & CEO of LUMA, told The New York Times on Saturday. “It’s in everyone’s interest that they are as careful with their energy as possible.”
Stensby added that the system would not be fully operational right away.
“The system is not back to its normal state yet, and it is likely it won’t be until later into the weekend,” he said.
The outage, which started Wednesday after a fire at PREPA’s Costa Sur power plant in Guayanilla, its largest, is the latest in a series of problems with the island’s energy grid, which LUMA promised to fix when it took over electricity transmission and distribution from Puerto Rico’s public utility with a pledge to reduce outages.
The Times report noted that frustration over the latest outrage boiled over Friday when more than 100 demonstrators gathered in front of PREPA headquarters in San Juan, where LUMA is headquartered.
Several packages of meat and fish were placed in front of the building’s entrance in protest of the thousands of families who have had to throw away food purchases, the report said.
Irma Raquel López Torres, who lives in Vega Baja, told the Times her family had to wait for more than an hour at a gas station Friday to get fuel for her generator. López Torres, who said she was already contending with higher gas prices and her recovery from bariatric surgery last month, depends on her generator to power her sleep apnea therapy machine as well.
“It feels like Hurricane Maria all over again,” López Torres said, referring to the 2017 storm that left many residents without power for a year. “There are so many elderly people in my community. I think about them, and some are home alone and don’t have the luxury of having a generator.”