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Following earthquakes, Puerto Rico utility works to restore power

The government-owned electric utility of Puerto Rico has been working to reestablish power across the island following a series of powerful earthquakes that caused infrastructure damage.

On Jan. 7, a magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck 15.4 miles from Ponce, a major city on the island's south coast, at about 4:24 a.m. local time, according to Red Sísmica de Puerto Rico, or the Puerto Rico Seismic Network. A day earlier, the seismic network reported a 5.8 magnitude temblor 19.7 miles southwest of the same city at about 6:32 a.m. local time. Numerous aftershocks followed the more-intense quakes.

In response to the earthquakes, Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced on Jan. 7 announced a state of emergency and activated the National Guard. U.S. Representative Jenniffer González, R-Puerto Rico, and Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rick Scott, R-Fla., have written to President Donald Trump seeking a disaster declaration to expedite federal aid.

Citing CEO José Ortiz, government-owned electric utility Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, also known as PREPA or Autoridad de Energía Eléctrica, tweeted that workers were evaluating substations throughout the island and anticipated system energization "early during the day."

How much work remains for the utility before power will be fully restored remains unclear. PREPA tweeted repeatedly throughout the morning as it brought substations back online. But numerous individuals who indicated that they are served by a substation in the city of Mayagüez complained on Twitter that they still did not have power even after PREPA said their substation had been brought back online.

Repeated attempts to contact PREPA directly were unsuccessful.

The blackouts were reminiscent of the power grid failures that followed the catastrophic 2017 landfall of Hurricane Maria, which decimated the Caribbean island's power grid and set off the longest blackout in U.S. history. To reduce future vulnerabilities, Gov. Vázquez Garced unveiled a $20.3 billion modernization plan on Oct. 25, 2019, to restore, update and decentralize the island's electric grid, a move made in part to bolster the territory's resilience in the face of future disasters.