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Massive blackout hits Puerto Rico; classes canceled for 2nd day as power continues to be restored

PUERTO RICO — Classes at public schools has been canceled for the second day in a row in Puerto Rico as power is slowly being restored following a massive blackout that struck the island Wednesday.

About 375,000 customers throughout the island have power restored, Gov. Alejandro Garcia-Padilla said in a news conference Thursday night.

Since some Puerto Ricans remain in the dark on Friday, the governor has canceled classes for public schools for the second day in the row.

Public employees have been told to report to work by 10 a.m. regardless if power is restored.

AEE, the electrical company in Puerto Rico, announced areas where people had electricity on its Twitter Thursday night. Power for the whole island should be back on for all residents by Friday, the director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority said.

Officials originally had hoped to restore power by Thursday morning to the island of 3.5 million residents, most of whom lost power and don't have generators.

The tropical heat combined with the lack of electricity have caused ice sales to increase throughout the island. The Manufacturers Association of Ice said ice plants are doing their best to meet the growing demand for millions of residents currently without air conditioning, according to Telemundo.

One man who slept in his car so he could get some air conditioning told the Associated Press, "Puerto Rico is not prepared for something like this."

A fire at a power plant blacked out the entire U.S. 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.

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

The company said in a press release that no injuries had been reported and the fire was controlled.

Jenniffer González Colón of the New Progressive Party called for President Barack Obama to declare a state of emergency in Puerto Rico, Telemundo reported.

"On behalf of the 3.4 million American citizens residing in Puerto Rico, I asked the president to declare Puerto Rico an emergency zone, which empowers the federal government to use its resources to stabilize the electrical system of Puerto Rico and so guarantee service to citizens, "said González Colón in a news release, which was translated to English.

Each unit at the facility will be energized "sequentially" in order to jumpstart available electricity generation. Restoring service to hospitals, airports, police stations and Aqueducts and Sewers Authority plants will be the priority, according to a press release.

"We are working hard to achieve recovery [of the] system and restore service to our customers," said Javier Quintana Mendez.  "We ask the public to remain calm in this situation and our colleagues remind you the most important thing is the safety of everyone."

El Nuevo Dia newspaper first reported that a failure in transmission at the Aguirre site caused a "total collapse of the system" which led to loss of power.

An energy switch at the facility which distributes energy seemed to be the cause, according to El Nuevo Dia.

The power outage angered many Puerto Ricans who on average, pay power bills that are twice as costly as bills on the U.S. mainland, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The Electric Power Authority has faced numerous allegations of corruption, according to the Sentinel. They are facing a $9 billion debt and officials say they are seeking more revenue to update what they say is old equipment.