Energy - Explosion Adds To Puerto Rico Power Woes
An explosion at a substation added thousands back to the hundreds of thousands of people still without electricity on the US island of Puerto Rico, months after the devastation of the September 2017 hurricane.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz Soto said that no injuries have been reported. Witnesses described a loud explosion at the Monacillos facility which sent out flames and smoke high in the night air.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze, but the explosion had a cascade effect and knocked out two other substations.
The fact that 400,000 people were still without electricity before the explosion highlights the lousy response to Puerto Rico's plight by the administration of the orange clown Donald Trump. The US government relied on wasteful, fraudulent, or inefficient partners to deal with the disaster.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) paid a single firm US$30 Million for emergency tarps and plastic sheeting - none of which was ever delivered. The New York Times last week reported that the $156 Million contract for providing Puerto Rico with much of its emergency food aid was handed to "Tiffany Brown, an Atlanta entrepreneur with no experience in large-scale disaster relief and at least five canceled government contracts in her past". Hiring a wedding caterer and a food bank, Brown's efforts had only 50,000 meals ready on the date the contract specified that 18.5 million meals would be needed.
But the failures began before the Category 4 hurricane even hit the island. With several days to prepare, the White House was informed that Puerto Rico's aging power grid wouldn't withstand the storm. There was time to have satellite telephones deployed to remote areas that would lose communications, and to pre-stage food, fuel, and aid supplies in areas where they would be needed. Instead, Trump did nothing before the storm and went on a four-day golf vacation in its immediate aftermath. The contract to restore power was famously handed to an inexperienced, shadowy company that just happened to be from the hometown of Trump's Interior Secretary.
Because of this lack of planning, people needlessly suffered and died. Puerto Rico's population is disproportionately elderly, and the elderly are disproportionately poor. Without power in hospitals and nursing homes, respirators and dialysis machines stopped running. Medical supplies quickly ran out. The death rate compared to previous years without hurricanes spikes, and some estimate the Hurricane Maria death toll to be 1,052 lives lost.
But the capitalists finally got one of their long-term goals. Puerto Rico's government recently announced plans to privatize the island's power company.