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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer condemned infighting between Puerto Rico’s energy regulator and its power company Tuesday and urged the U.S. territory to develop a “resilient” power grid after Hurricane Fiona devastated the island, where most people remained without electricity or running water.
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Hundreds of people have been rescued in Puerto Rico and the blow from Fiona was made more devastating because Puerto Rico has yet to recover from Hurricane Maria, which destroyed the power grid in 2017. Five years later, more than 3,000 homes on the island are still covered by blue tarps.
Schumer said Congress appropriated $21 billion for Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, including $12 billion for rebuilding its power grid, but a government accountability study indicated that only two percent of that money had been spent. He said part of the blame rested with the previous administration, but infighting between Puerto Rico regulatory body and its power companies was also to blame.
“The situation is a disaster,” Schumer said. “Enough is enough. The Puerto Rican Energy Bureau must push PREPA and Luma not only to restore power, but to once and for all create a distributed, more resilient grid. And we will back them up.”
READ MORE: Calls for reform in Puerto Rico as Hurricane Fiona leaves entire island without power
Authorities said Monday at least 2,300 people and some 250 pets remained in shelters across the island.
Fiona triggered a blackout when it hit Puerto Rico’s southwest corner on Sunday, the anniversary of Hurricane Hugo, which slammed into the island in 1989 as a Category 3 storm.
Schumer called on FEMA to act quickly to provide emergency assistance to Puerto Rico.
“Look, folks, we have a lot more work to do,” he said. “In the immediate term, get the dollars out, get them out quickly.”
By Tuesday morning, authorities said they had restored power to more than 285,000 of the island’s 1.47 million customers. Puerto Rico’s governor, Pedro Pierluisi, warned it could take days before everyone has electricity.
Water service was cut to more than 837,000 customers – two thirds of the total on the island – because of turbid water at filtration plants or lack of power, officials said.
Fiona was not expected to threaten the U.S. mainland.
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