In the aftermath of the storm, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló made an official governor-to-governor request to New York to ask for essential supplies, services and assistance in assessing the severely damaged power grid.
In response, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo immediately assembled a delegation of administration officials and emergency response experts, including 60 members of the National Guard, to do a reconnaissance of the destruction. The relief flight, donated by JetBlue — the largest airline in Puerto Rico — departed from John F. Kennedy International Airport to San Juan Airport early on Friday.
The delegation is delivering a slew of essentials, including large-scale generators that can power hospitals and communication centers, 34,000 bottles of water, nearly 10,000 ready-to-eat meals, and thousands of cots, blankets and pillows. Four Black Hawk helicopters and 50 New York State Police are also on standby.
One of the most immediate concerns is getting the antiquated power grid back up and running.
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the U.S. territory’s main electricity provider, reported that its key transmission lines were taken out of service, leaving nearly all of its 1.6 million customers without power.
Significant flooding and debris have limited the ability to safely conduct damage assessments, according to the most recent report issued by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Complicating matters further, the power authority is bankrupt, carrying some $9 billion in outstanding debt and still reeling from the $400 million in damages inflicted by Hurricane Irma.
The authority’s executive director, Ricardo Ramos, issued a statement Thursday night announcing that the power utility will not resume regular operations until Monday, “in an effort to avoid jeopardizing the safety of its employees.”