Nine days after Hurricane Fiona ripped through Puerto Rico, bringing more than 30 inches of rain and causing at least three deaths, hundreds of thousands of customers on the island were still without power.
As of Tuesday morning — when most eyes were on Hurricane Ian moving over Cuba — about 490,000 customers in Puerto Rico were without electricity, according to PowerOutage.Us, a website that aggregates data from utilities across the United States. That’s down from the 1.5 million electrical customers who were without power on Saturday, about a week after Hurricane Fiona, then a Category 1 storm, struck.
At least three people died and two were injured last week in accidents related to the power outage. A candle fire burned down a house in San Juan, killing two and injuring one. Another person died and another was sent to the hospital after being intoxicated with fumes from a generator.
The government of Puerto Rico on Saturday said that up to 16 people may have died as a direct or indirect result of the storm, though at least a dozen of those cases were still being investigated.
Restoring power to customers after a hurricane can be a complicated effort that sometimes requires time. But Puerto Rico, an island with an aged and fragile grid, has become notoriously vulnerable to both outages and extensive recovery time in recent years.
Hurricane Fiona drew parallels to Hurricane Maria, a near-category 5 storm that slammed Puerto Rico in 2017. That storm inflicted more damage on the island than any other disaster in recent history. Eighty percent of the island’s electrical system was damaged, leaving Puerto Ricans without power for months. The last house was not reconnected to the system until nearly a year later.
While Hurricane Fiona brought floods and strong winds across the island, damage to its power grid was not as evident as it was after Hurricane Maria. But some Puerto Ricans — who pay some of the highest electricity rates in the United States — said they had little patience to accept another prolonged blackout.