SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – It’s already been five days with no lights or air conditioning, and Puerto Rico is looking at many, many more.
The power is still out on nearly all the island after Hurricane Maria smashed poles, snarled power lines and flooded electricity-generating plants, knocking out a grid that was already considered antiquated compared to the U.S. mainland.
Power had been restored to a handful of hospitals and surrounding areas by Monday afternoon but Public Affairs Secretary Ramon Rosario said it will take months to fully restore power to the island.
Getting the power back isn’t just a matter of comfort. A long delay will mean even more pain for a Puerto Rican economy that’s already reeling from a decade-long recession. With no power, even more people will leave the island to find better opportunities on the mainland and further drain its workforce.
The downed power system is also damaging the tourism industry, which contributed 8 percent to Puerto Rico’s economy last year.