September 22, 2017 / 8:13 PM / a year ago

N.Y. power company sends crew to aid Puerto Rico after hurricane

(Reuters) - The New York Power Authority (NYPA) on Friday sent 10 engineers, planners and technical supervisors to Puerto Rico to help with the assessment and reconstruction of the island’s power grid, which was completely shut down by Hurricane Maria.

Workers use backhoe loaders to remove damaged electrical installations from a street after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in Salinas, Puerto Rico September 21, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The NYPA workers were part of a group that traveled to Puerto Rico with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on the first flight to depart for Puerto Rico’s capital San Juan since the Category 4 hurricane hit the island on Wednesday, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

“We have assembled top emergency response experts to support Puerto Rico and help repair its devastated power structure, and we are providing supplies and any additional assistance we can to support the island as they recover from this unprecedented natural disaster,” Cuomo said in a statement.

In addition to the 10 NYPA specialists and translators, New York also sent drones and two drone pilots from the Department of Environmental Conservation to assist with the reconstruction of Puerto Rico’s power grid.

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), which owns and operates the power system serving the commonwealth’s 3.4 million residents, filed for bankruptcy in July, after years of underinvestment that yielded a grid it called “degraded and unsafe.”

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello has said PREPA was so severely hit that it could be months before electricity is restored to all customers.

The NYPA workers are some of the first utility workers to go to Puerto Rico from the mainland after Maria.

The American Public Power Association (APPA), which is helping coordinate the utility response, has said it was also planning to bring in crews from other parts of the U.S. mainland to help with recovery efforts on both Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

There were some specialists from the Western Area Power Authority, which serves much of the U.S. West from Montana to Texas and California, already on Puerto Rico when Maria struck the island.

The Western Area workers had been on their way to the Virgin Islands to help rebuild and restore power after Hurricane Irma when they got stuck in Puerto Rico.

Irma grazed Puerto Rico on Sept. 6, knocking out power to more than 1 million of PREPA’s 1.5 million customers. PREPA said it restored power to all but about 60,000 homes and businesses by Tuesday before Maria hit.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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