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CEO of Puerto Rico’s power company to resign amid outages

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CEO of Puerto Rico’s power company to resign amid outages

CEO of Puerto Rico’s power company to resign amid outages

Puerto Rico’s state-owned power company’s CEO is resigning as thousands of customers have been left without electricity following the tropical storm last week that further disrupted a grid only struggling to recover from past hurricanes and earthquakes, officials said Monday.

José Ortiz is scheduled to step down on Wednesday amid widespread frustration and impatience with continuing power outages that arise during a pandemic, at the height of what is anticipated to be an extraordinarily active hurricane season as hundreds of thousands of parents brace for a virtual school year ‘s launch.

“It is irresponsible and unrespectful that a single storm has caused the turmoil we now have,” said Natalia Núñez, who lives in San Juan and has been helpless since Thursday.

Some Puerto Ricans are also frustrated with how recent outages were treated by the Electric Power Authority, including one last week that was not connected to hurricanes and left more than 300,000 customers without electricity.

Then Isaias roared over the island as a tropical storm, leaving over 400,000 more customers in the dark. More than 20,000 customers were still without electricity by Monday afternoon.

“That’s not natural,” UTIER secretary Walberto Rolón, a power workers’ union, told The Associated Press. “We don’t have any staff or sufficient equipment … this is something we can remedy.”

The expected resignation of Ortiz was praised by Rolón and others, accusing him and other company officials of improvising as outages continue.

Gov. Wanda Vázquez said the announcement came after she met with the president of the board of the power company to insist that all appropriate steps be taken because she challenged the storm’s outages and the way officials treated it.

Ortiz had become the third CEO of the company in two weeks when, in July 2018, he was named to the position as the island struggled to recover from a lack of leadership, bankruptcy and outages caused by Hurricane Maria. He said on Monday that he committed two years to the job at the time.

“My resignation comes at an apt moment when all Puerto Ricans deserve to turn PREPA into modern electric utility,” Ortiz said in a statement.

Last week, before the hurricane, Ortiz blamed the outage on what he said was interference or a human error, claiming it was done manually.

Meanwhile, the 1.5 million consumers in the company are growing increasingly exasperated by the continuing outages. Among them is Laura Mejía, a mother of two who lives in a poor community and was forced to throw food away when she was left helpless for three days a week before Isaias skirted the island.

“We spent three days sleepless,” she said, adding that recent heat indexes reached 100 degrees Fahrenheit. “We were incommunicados and didn’t even have a fan because there’s no electricity we have.”

Hossana C. Infozer, you can link up with me via social media platforms @officialinfozer.

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