Nearly 800,000 Lose Power After Massive Substation Fire, Possible Cyberattack in Puerto Rico

The fire erupted in a transformer at Luma Energy's Monacillo substation in San Juan.

According to a report from NPR, a massive fire at an electrical substation for Puerto Rico’s new electricity provider, Luma Energy, knocked out power for nearly 800,000 residents on Thursday. As of midnight, roughly 60,000 customers were still without power.

The fire erupted in a transformer at Luma’s Monacillo substation in San Juan, according to Luma. Police and fire services responded to the scene. No injuries have been reported.

In a message on social media, Govenor Pedro Pierluisi called the incident as an “explosion.”

In addition to the blackout, Luma indicated that its client portal and mobile app fell victim to a cyberattack that disrupted customer access to its Web services.

David Begnaud/Twitter

The distributed denial of service attack generated two million visits per second to the client portal and mobile app, impacting customers’ ability to access account information, according to Luma.

The company said in a statement that it “Regrets that its customers experienced the inconvenience the attack may have caused and looks forward to continuing to provide them with an exceptional customer service experience.”

It is unclear whether the fire and DDoS attack are connected.

Luma took over as the island’s power authority on June 1. Puerto Rico’s previous energy provider, Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, had its own troubles with blackouts, bankruptcy, and mismanagement in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Luma has asked residents to be patient as it transitions into the island’s new provider, claiming the company has inherited frail electric infrastructure. According to the Associated Press, prior to Thursday’s blackout, more than one million customers lost power in the first days of the switchover, not counting those affected by the substation fire.


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