Cheers erupted as lights slowly began to flicker on across Puerto Rico overnight as the US territory struggled to emerge from an island-wide blackout following a fire at a power plant that caused the aging utility grid to fail. More than 390,000 of 1.5 million homes and businesses served by the power utility had electricity restored by late Thursday, with cries of, "The lights are back on!" echoing through some neighborhoods. Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla says he expects more than half of customers to have power by Friday morning, and 90% by Saturday, though he admits problems may arise, the AP reports.
The blackout hit the entire island of 3.5 million people early Wednesday afternoon and prompted Garcia to activate the National Guard and declare a state of emergency. Heavy storms that hit the island Thursday afternoon knocked out power to some areas where electricity had been restored. While those with power celebrated a return to normalcy, others lamented having to face another night in darkness with no air conditioning in the tropical heat. As sunset approached on Thursday, long lines formed at ice plants, supermarkets, and gas stations. Elsewhere, people crouched around power outlets at generator-powered supermarkets and malls to charge cellphones.