More than half of Puerto Rico is still without electricity; island faces unique problems

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — More than half the island of Puerto Rico is still without electricity.

Dominion Energy will send dozens of workers and pieces of equipment to the island as part of a national effort to help the island three months after it was devastated by a hurricane.

Hurricane Maria barreled through Puerto Rico back in September and three months later over half of the island is still without power. Residents and police describe the challenges they face without electricity.

“I get up at night, just touching walls (due to lack of light),” Maria Rivera said. “If I need to go to the girls’ bedroom or to the bathroom.”

Sergeant Felix Rosado, with the Puerto Rico State Police, described the public safety hazards involved.

“The issue of not having lights is that when we pass by the buildings, to be able to see, we have to shine a light on it,” Rosado said. “There is no lighting. And it’s possible that while we are passing by, a crime could be happening inside a building and we don’t notice it due to lack of light.”

He said this also impacts violent crime.

“You go without power for an extended period of time, then you’re talking about the loss of human life,” David Botkins with Dominion Energy said.

Botkins says that’s why their company is sending over eighty of its employees to join the over 1,500 workers being sent by power companies across the country to Puerto Rico.

“Tree trimmers, linemen, groundsmen, all the skill sets that are needed to assist in getting the lights back on as quickly and safely as possible,” Botkins said.

Along with the crews, fifty-six pieces of equipment will travel by barge to the island including bucket trucks. Botkins said it’s an extremely complex effort.

“It’s extremely complicated, the logistics are very, very detailed,” he said. “It’s much like a military exercise.”

He explained further.

“Their grid was destroyed, the transportation, infrastructure is challenging, the mountainous terrain is difficult, so we’re pleased to be a part of the national effort,” he said.

The crews will spend a month on the island. Botkins said it’s the right thing to do.

“We owe it to our friends in Puerto Rico, being without power for that long is just absolutely devastating,” Botkins said.

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