Over 400,000 without power in Puerto Rico after Massive Fire and Cyberattack

There were at least 400,000 people without power in Puerto Rico on Thursday night as the company that took over the island’s power transmissions has been faced with fire and cyberattack.

Luma, the company that took over Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority on June 1, has seen more than one million customers this month without power at some point, officials said, USA Today reported.

At the height of the most recent outage, there were 900,000 customers without electricity.

The company has faced two issues this week that have hindered its performance: a fire at a main substation causing the outages and a cyberattack that has limited the ability of customers to get in contact with Luma.

“A significant transformer fire has been reported at the Monacillo substation. The fire caused significant outages across Puerto Rico,” the company said in a press release Thursday.

In another announcement on Thursday, Luma said the cyberattack against their website was affecting the customer portal and making it difficult for customers to get in contact with the company.

Luma has “become aware of a targeted Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack to the Mi LUMA customer portal and mobile application.”

“A DDoS attack is an attempt to make an online service unavailable by overwhelming it with traffic from multiple sources. The DDoS attack was identified and has been issuing 2 million hits per second. As a result, many customers may have had difficulty accessing information related to their account,” the statement reads.

Multiple mayors have declared a state of emergency due to the power outages, with the government asking people to be patient as Luma just began its 15-year tenure of operating the system that is running on crumbling infrastructure, according to the outlet. 

The island’s electric grid and infrastructure were devastated back in 2017 after Hurricane Maria, with the island still not fully recovered from the natural disaster.

Puerto Rico’s governor calls for an investigation

The fire broke out in a transformer at Luma’s Monacillo substation in San Juan, according to the company. Police and fire services went to the scene. No injuries have been reported.

In a message shared on social media, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi referred to the incident as an “explosion.”

Pierluisi said both state and federal law enforcement authorities are investigating.

He added, “Whoever is responsible for it will have to answer to the People of Puerto Rico.”

FBI San Juan authorities said they are “evaluating” the power outage and encouraged people with information to come forward.

The blackout comes as the island is still working to vaccinate its residents against the coronavirus. Vaccines must be kept at a low temperature to remain viable.

The island’s Secretary of Health Carlos Mellado López said in a tweet that hospital services remain uninterrupted and that vaccines are still safe. “Our suppliers have generators and we have over 70 support centers to keep them safe,” he wrote.