Puerto Rico governor: Island's power slowly being restored

Almost everyone on the island of 3.5 million people lost power.

The blackout is the worst to hit Puerto Rico in the last 36 years.

(AP Photo/Carlos Giusti). Vehicle lights illuminate a street after a massive blackout, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016.

People wait in line to buy ice during a massive blackout in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016.

Early on Thursday, almost 24 hours after a blackout caused by a power plant fire shut down power across Puerto Rico that set off a cascade of problems for the island's aging utility grid, some 200,000 customers had their electricity back on. Officials said it could be 24 hours before power would be restored. Power may not be fully restored until Friday, the Chicago Tribune reported. "I understand the annoyance of being without electricity".

Puerto Ricans, who continue to struggle in the midst of the island's economic hardship, were angered about the power outage and expressed concerns on social media. But it will be Friday before almost all of the power company's 1.5 million customers are reconnected, said Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla, who declared a state of emergency.

A fire at a power plant blacked out the entire USA territory about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, and investigation is under way by power company Electric Power Authority, though a cause has not been determined. Businesses, universities and government offices closed early, putting even more cars on chaotic roads. Meanwhile, some 205,000 people remained without water.

Frustration mounted Thursday among Puerto Ricans, most of whom don't have generators and were forced them to spend Wednesday night in darkness and without air conditioning in the tropical heat.

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"It's been terrible", said San Juan resident Elizabeth Maldonado, adding that she was resigned to another sleepless night. "I take a cold shower right before going to bed".

For those who could afford it, hotels offered special rates for residents that were quickly snapped up.

As sunset approached, lines formed at ice plants, supermarkets and gas stations, and people crouched around power outlets at generator-powered supermarkets and malls to charge cellphones.

The governor, however, said that no amount of money or maintenance would have prevented the fire.

AEE said the blackout began late Wednesday after a fire at its Aguirre power plant.

The power company said two transmission lines of 230 thousand volts were damaged.

Fire Chief Angel Crespo said a power switch got overheated, causing a 2,000-gallon mineral oil tank to explode.

The Electric Power Authority has faced numerous allegations of corruption, according to the Sentinel. Company officials have said they are seeking revenue to update outdated equipment.