SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Union leaders representing Puerto Rico power company workers slammed local and federal officials Friday as the U.S. territory missed a deadline to restore 95 percent of power as promised by the island’s governor.
Puerto Rico is currently at 64 percent power generation nearly three months after Hurricane Maria hit, and the situation has sparked a growing number of protests organized by some of the hundreds of neighborhoods that remain in the dark.
UTIER union president Angel Figueroa said one of the biggest problems is that workers with Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority still don’t have the equipment or material to meet the governor’s goal.
"We’ve been forced to recycle materials," he said, adding that residents in the southern mountain town of Villalba recently bought basic supplies for government workers so power could be restored in their neighborhood.
"They used money out of their own pockets," he said.
Nine of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities remain entirely without power, and thousands of businesses have closed. The lack of electricity and other ongoing problems have sparked an exodus to the U.S. mainland, with more than 130,000 Puerto Ricans fleeing the island.
Jose Sanchez, director of Puerto Rico’s power grid restoration program for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, recently told the Associated Press that efforts to restore power have been delayed in part because supplies are lacking.
"That flow of materials and personnel has to match, and they have to match perfectly," he said.
"Unfortunately, I don’t think anybody was prepared here in Puerto Rico to address that magnitude of destruction and be able to administer the logistics associated with that."
Sanchez also said that Puerto Rico’s mountainous topography poses a big challenge: "It’s still a logistical nightmare."