Explosion at Puerto Rico power substation cuts power to entire island

A fire at an electrical substation in Puerto Rico knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people across the island, utility company LUMA Energy said.

“The fire caused severe power outages throughout the island. The situation is being assessed and work is underway to restore the system,” LUMA Energy said on Twitter, saying the restoration work will continue overnight.

According to LUMA Energy, about 400,000 customers in Puerto Rico were without power as of late Thursday, more than one in 10 islanders. The fire originated in a transformer at LUMA’s Monacillos substation, the company said. Puerto Rico police, fire department and emergency medical personnel are on the scene and no injuries have been reported.

Calling it an explosion, Governor Pedro Pierluisi said state and federal law enforcement agencies are investigating the cause. “All PR government resources are being deployed to respond to the emergency caused by the fire at the Monasillos substation in Rio Piedras. Firefighters have already arrived on the scene to deal with the situation. As soon as firefighters confirm more details, we will let you know,” Pierluisi wrote on Twitter.

“The priority should be to restore power as quickly as possible, and our people can be assured that we are doing everything we can to do so. In the meantime, once we get the results of the investigation into the causes of this incident, whoever is responsible will have to answer to the people of Puerto Rico,” he said.

In a press conference with local media Thursday, LUMA Energy CEO Wayne Stansby said 800,000 customers were without power at the peak of the outage, according to El Nuevo Día newspaper. “The FBI is assessing the situation related to the mass power outage,” Limari Cruz-Rubio, the FBI’s public affairs officer in San Juan, told CNN Thursday night, but would not comment further on the matter.

LUMA Energy said it was the victim of a denial-of-service hacker attack the same day, in which huge amounts of Web traffic are deliberately directed at the site in an attempt to overwhelm it. “The DDoS attack was identified and produced 2 million hits per second,” LUMA Energy said in a statement.

“As a result, many customers may have had difficulty accessing information related to their accounts.” There was no immediate indication of a connection between the attack on the Web site and the substation explosion. “The attack has been reported to the appropriate authorities and LUMA is awaiting the results of an ongoing investigation,” the press release said. LUMA is a joint venture between Quanta Services and the Canadian power company ATCO, which was chosen by the Puerto Rican government to take over control of the power system from the previous state-owned electric company, PREPA. LUMA has been in charge of the power system since June 1.

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