900k without power in Puerto Rico after tree falls on line

April 12 (UPI) — A power line failure knocked out electricity for at least 900,000 people in Puerto Rico on Thursday while the island still recovers from Hurricane Maria.

The Electrical Power Authority reported that a tree fell on the power line during restoration work on a transmission system in Cayey, local media reported around 4 p.m.

“Puerto Rico again with a massive power outage,” San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz tweeted Thursday morning.

Cruz added that the power line that failed is the same one that controversial contracting firm Whitefish Energy repaired after Hurricane Maria hit the island six months ago.

The company — with two employees — got a $300 million contract to restore the power grid crippled by Hurricane Maria. It landed the contract almost without a competitive bidding process and with significant price markups to certain services.

The electrical authority canceled the contract with Whitefish, based out of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s Montana hometown, as U.S. federal investigators questioned the contract. Zinke denied any wrongdoing.

The widespread blackout Thursday comes on the heels of a new report on the island’s lingering power crisis.

According to the report by the Rhodium Group, Hurricane Maria, which made landfall in September, has caused people in Puerto Rico to lose 3.4 billion hours of service, making it the “second largest blackout in the world.”

Maria previously surpassed all other blackouts in recorded U.S. history when it caused 1.2 billion lost hours of power a little more than a month after it hit, the report shows.

As of the beginning of this week, 100,000 Puerto Ricans were still without power from Maria.

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