What caused Monacillo power plant explosion? Puerto Rico suffers blackout after massive fire

The power went out at the Puerto Rico Capitol after an explosion and fire


                            What caused Monacillo power plant explosion? Puerto Rico suffers blackout after massive fire
Fire at a power plant left many in Puerto Rico in the dark (Photo by Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

MONACILLO, PUERTO RICO: A private company that took over power transmission and distribution in Puerto Rico this month has struggled to quell a huge fire at a critical substation that left thousands in the dark, on Thursday, June 10.

Officials estimate more over 1 million customers have been affected by outages so far this month, excluding those affected by the explosion and fire at a substation in San Juan's capital. Before Thursday's fire, several mayors had proclaimed a state of emergency and offered ice and generators to those in need.

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Power outages can be fatal as was seen in February when three children and their grandmother died while trying to keep warm during the Texas outage. The same month, the family of a Texas boy, who allegedly froze to death after the family’s mobile house lost power during an intensely cold day in Texas. They filed a $100 million lawsuit against the region’s utility provider ERCOT. As a result of all this Texas mayor Tim Boyd had to quit, but he told residents the govt owes them 'nothing' amid the winter storm outages.

What caused the explosion at the Monacillo power plant?

Many in Puerto Rico had hoped for a speedy improvement in service, but clients say it has gotten worse in Luma's first few days of operation, with issues exacerbated by heavy rains this week and the explosion.

Javier Jiménez, mayor of San Sebastián in western Spain, said he was forced to reactivate the brigade this week because Luma Energy, which took over the Electric Power Authority's transmission and distribution system on June 1, told him it didn't have enough manpower to restore power to the more than 1,000 families in his town who were left without power over the weekend. “I could not believe it,” he said to the Daily News. “A company that has been here just days...”

Luma did not respond to a request for comment, but a company spokesperson, José Pérez, told local radio stations that the outages may be the result of sabotage or too many individuals utilizing the system at the same time. Luma then said on June 10 afternoon that its website had been the victim of a cyberattack. They said that the fire broke out at the Monacillo power distribution plant soon after the company website was hit with two million visits per second, in a cyber-attack known as a denial of service.

“This has turned into chaos,” said Jiménez. The town had set up its own repair brigade after Hurricane Maria substantially wrecked the US territory's electrical grid in 2017, leaving some residents without power for nearly a year.

Following the incident, government officials have counseled patience, noting that Luma inherited thousands of outages and only just taken over a system relying on fragile infrastructure, much of it patched together after Hurricane Maria.

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