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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s power company said Thursday that it has restored electricity to all customers affected by an island-wide blackout that was caused by an excavator hitting a transmission line, but tens of thousands of families still remain without normal service seven months after hurricanes Maria and Irma.

Officials said that power had been restored to more than 1.4 million of its clients after Wednesday’s blackout. The outage marked the first time Puerto Rico was hit by an island-wide blackout since Hurricane Maria struck on Sept. 20 and wiped out as much as 75 percent of the power distribution lines.

The blackout snarled traffic, forced businesses and schools to close and sparked long lines at gas stations.

Before the blackout on the U.S. territory of 3.3 million people, more than 44,000 customers were still without normal electric service lost with Hurricane Maria. Some have been without power even longer, hit when Hurricane Irma brushed past Puerto Rico’s northeast coast as a Category 5 storm on Sept. 7, leaving 1 million customers without power.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing federal power restoration efforts, said it expects the entire island to be energized by late May, just weeks before the Atlantic hurricane season starts on June 1. But many believe it will take longer, and a group of federal legislators has asked the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency to extend the Corps’ assignment past May 18 to ensure all Puerto Ricans are once again connected to the island’s fragile power grid.

Meanwhile, some legislators also have called on the U.S. Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee to hold an oversight hearing on federal efforts to restore power on the island.

“Puerto Ricans are still dealing with constant setbacks and unreliable power,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. “This is just simply unacceptable.”

Print Headline: Puerto Rico still restoring power

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