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Massive power outage hits Puerto Rico, at least 870,000 customers without power

Puerto Rico was hit with a massive power outage, the power authority said Thursday — nearly seven months after Hurricane Maria destroyed much of the island’s infrastructure and its electrical grid.

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority said a tree fell on a major power line, knocking out service to 870,000 customers, about half of its clients.

Major blackouts were reported from the northern coastal town of Manatí to Yabucoa, roughly 50 miles southeast.

The blackout also includes the capital of San Juan, the most populated area of the island.

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said it could take eight to 16 hours for electricity to be restored.

Cruz posted images on Twitter of police officers directing traffic on the streets of San Juan.

Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, home to more than 3 million US citizens, in late September.

Puerto Rico has lost 3.4 billion customer-hours of electricity service due to Maria, according to an analysis released Thursday by the economic data analytics and policy firm Rhodium Group. That made it the largest blackout in US history and the second largest in the world — after the outage caused when Typhoon Haiyan tore the Philippines in 2013, killing more than 6,000 people.

“More customer-hours have been lost in Puerto Rico due to Hurricane Maria than in the rest of the US over the past five years due to all causes combined,” according to the group’s analysis.

The Rhodium Group said more than 100,000 Puerto Ricans were still without power at the beginning of this week.

Last month, the US Army Corps of Engineers said more than $200 million worth of materials were to arrive in Puerto Rico to help the corps’ power restoration efforts. The materials included more than 7,000 poles and nearly 400 miles of conductor wire, according to Col. Jason Kirk, commander of the Corps’ district that includes the island.

The Corps of Engineers has said back-to-back 2017 disasters, the remoteness of the island and the fact that some supplies had to be manufactured for installation in Puerto Rico, slowed down work on the electric system.