SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Air conditioners began to whir across Puerto Rico on Friday and electronics beeped to life as power slowly returned to the U.S. territory following an island-wide blackout caused by a fire at a power plant that shut down an aging utility grid.

About 75 percent of 1.5 million homes and businesses served by the island’s power company had electricity restored, and the majority of Puerto Ricans will likely have power by today, Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla said.

“We’ve surpassed our expectations,” he said. “We’re working hard to restore power to our other customers … I understand the annoyance of being without electricity.”

The lights went out briefly during Friday’s press conference at the island’s emergency operations center, provoking a laugh from government officials addressing reporters.

Garcia said temporary power outages would still occur in upcoming days given the growing demand for electricity as more and more customers become reconnected following Wednesday’s outage.

Miguel Caraballo, a 30- year-old San Juan bank worker, said his power returned late Thursday.

“As soon as the lights came on, we began to celebrate. We clapped and yelled out in joy,” he said with a smile.

The blackout affected the entire island of 3.5 million people and angered many Puerto Ricans already struggling through a decade-long economic crisis.

The outage prompted Garcia to activate the National Guard and declare a state of emergency. Public schools remained closed on Friday, and officials warned that storms could once again knock out power to some areas where electricity had been restored. Meanwhile, some 205,000 people remained without water.

While those with power celebrated a return to normalcy, others were upset about having spent a second night in darkness and possibly a third with no air conditioning in the heat.

Most Puerto Ricans don’t have generators, and those who could afford it booked hotels offering special rates.

At least one person died the first night from exposure to carbon monoxide after setting up a personal generator. Meanwhile, four police officers were struck by vehicles while directing traffic.


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