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  • A light post seen in Puerto Rico a year after Hurricane Maria. August 29, 2018.

    A light post seen in Puerto Rico a year after Hurricane Maria. August 29, 2018. | Photo: EFE

Published 12 December 2018

More than a year after hurricanes Maria and Irma, Puerto Rican still have to deal with their consequences.

Completely repairing public street lights system in Puerto Rico will cost about US$40 million, according to Carlos Alvarado Torres, chief of technical operations of the state-owned Electric Energy Authority (AEE).

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It’s expected that by mid-January the AEE will hire private companies, including U.S.-based firms, to help in the reestablishment of the service, which could take up to eight months.

About 106,000 lighting units were damaged by hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017, which left the island largely unreachable and with consequences are still present for many. Alvarado Torres said the AEE doesn’t have enough staff to carry out the reparations by itself, leading to a “security emergency.” Currently, the U.S. company Cobra is working on the reestablishment of transmission lines. MasTec and other local companies are also interested.

“The AEE already has a series of projects going on in order to reestablish public lighting using its personnel and external collaborators. Among these, the firm ‘Agreements of Collaboration With Municipalities’,” explained Alvarado Torres, who said the AEE is in process of implementing similar project in 17 municipalities by the end of 2018.

Through these agreements, the AEE would put materials at the disposition of the municipalities, which would, in turn, provide the workers and equipment for the replacement of lights.

Shortly after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rican authorities set the death toll at 64, but a later study by Harvard raised that number to 4,645.

A study by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University (GWU), commissioned by Puerto Rico’s governor Ricardo Rosello and considered official, revealed that the hurricane left 2,975 victims, including those who died from infrastructure damage, poor health care, lack of basic services and power cuts.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who said his administration did a “fantastic job” dealing with the hurricanes’ consequences, has been blamed by Puerto Rican authorities due to his negligence.

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