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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Hundreds march in Santa Isabel to protest power outage

Emergency Operations Center activated at central level and in impacted regions

Santa Isabel Mayor Rafael Burgos Santiago said citizens are not willing to wait between four and seven weeks for their electricity service to return. (Luis Javier Hernández/Facebook)

By The Star Staff

Hundreds of marchers from Santa Isabel, Coamo and Aibonito joined the mayors of Santa Isabel and Coamo on Monday morning in a protest march in the former town against private grid operator LUMA Energy due to the serious problem faced by residents of the southern municipalities after a breakdown at a substation in the region.

Santa Isabel Mayor Rafael Burgos Santiago said citizens are not willing to wait between four and seven weeks for their electricity service to return amid collective indignation against the company.

“Our residents can’t take it anymore,” he said. “There is total outrage at the inhumane way the company is working on repairs. No more excuses. We want immediate solutions. The call to action is to the entire country.”

Coamo Mayor Juan Carlos García Padilla said residents demand concrete solutions to the energy problem that also affects Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority plants, also leaving them without water service.

“This situation is devastating for the economy of a sector of the country that struggles to stay alive,” he said. “The effect on commerce, industries and our communities is very serious.”

LUMA Energy announced later on Monday that its transmission brigades had completed work to increase the capacity of transmission line 4800, which connects Aibonito with Santa Isabel, allowing service to be restored in Aibonito, Coamo, Santa Isabel and parts of Barranquitas. The repairs were completed on Sunday night, and are part of ongoing efforts to improve the resilience of the electrical infrastructure in the island south, the company said.

Meanwhile, Bureau for Emergency Management and Disaster Administration (NMEAD) Commissioner Nino Correa Filomeno announced on Monday that the Emergency Operations Center (COE by its initials in Spanish) was activated at the central level and in the regions of Ponce, Guayama and Caguas to address any situation in Aibonito, Coamo and Santa Isabel.

“Aware of the situation that the residents of these towns are going through and at the call of the mayors of the affected municipalities, we have activated the COE in order to process any help from government agencies, while LUMA resolves the situation of the lack of electricity,” Correa Filomeno said in a written statement. “Since last week, we have been in constant communication with the mayors and with the help of our Community Hubs program, we have managed for the Food Bank and chef Clemente del Comedor de la Kennedy to bring lunches, which have been distributed since last Thursday in Coamo and Santa Isabel. Efforts are being made to continue bringing them food through the Food Bank, and to include Aibonito. I take this opportunity to thank these entities for their support and we will continue to work together to provide help to the people of these towns.”

More information can be found by accessing the NMEAD’s social networks. To report any emergency, call or text 9-1-1 to request assistance from the appropriate agencies.

Also on Monday, Guayama District Sen. Héctor Santiago Torres joined the rising chorus of outrage over the blackout, making an urgent call to Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia to declare a state of emergency given the crisis in the three towns. The situation has severely impacted residents’ quality of life and the operations of local businesses, he said.

“The citizens of Santa Isabel, Coamo and Aibonito cannot endure one more day without electricity. This situation is unsustainable and requires immediate and forceful action,” the senator said. “We ask the governor to declare a state of emergency, which will expedite the distribution of aid and necessary funds to affected citizens and merchants.”

The declaration of a state of emergency will free up funds to mitigate the damage caused by the lack of electricity and provide additional resources to the affected towns, Santiago Torres said, meeting a crucial need and helping guarantee the safety and well-being of the population.

He also called on LUMA Energy to take immediate action and resolve the crisis effectively and quickly.

“It is imperative that LUMA respond to this situation with the urgency it deserves,” the senator said. “We cannot allow our citizens to continue to suffer the consequences of a prolonged lack of electricity.”

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1 Comment

4 days ago

The lack of electricity has a domino effect, impacting not just homes but also Buckshot Roulette businesses and essential services like water.

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