PHOTO: The streets of San Juan were dark Wednesday night after a massive power outage across Puerto Rico. (Photo by Brian Major)
UPDATE, 1 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 22 -- Gov. Alejandro Garcia-Padilla said that about half of power customers should have electricity within hours. The director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, meanwhile, says the entire system should be back to normal on Friday, according to ABC News
A huge fire at a central electrical plant in San Juan has caused a nationwide blackout across the island of Puerto Rico Wednesday night.
Authorities said the fire was under control as of 10 p.m., with no injuries reported.
But Alejandro García Padilla, the governor of Puerto Rico, said at a news conference that the outage will last “for hours,” with sporadic restoration of power over the next several hours into Thursday morning. Padilla added that he does not believe the fire to be a terrorist-related incident.
So far, the blackouts have not interrupted cell phone service, and, remarkably, Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport in San Juan was still in service.
According to FlightAware, there were no delays or cancellations for arrivals this evening into San Juan and no early reports of delays or cancellations from airlines on flights into the country on Thursday morning.
Vehicle traffic came to a virtual standstill across the island, and train service in San Juan was cancelled.
Other airports, hospitals, police stations and water plants will get priority when power begins to be restored on Thursday morning, officials said.
Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, is home to 3.5 million people, meaning nearly half the population was without power on Wednesday night. Padilla said the fire destroyed a portion of the plant that provides 30 percent of Puerto Rico’s overall power.
“This is a very serious event,” Padilla said. “The system is not designed to withstand a failure of this magnitude.”
According to the Associated Press, authorities said the outage caused 15 fires across Puerto Rico as a result of malfunctioning generators, including at the upscale Vanderbilt hotel in the popular tourist area of Condado and at the mayor’s office in the northern coastal town of Catano. There were no injuries, officials said.