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Engineers Ask For Audit On Power Shutdown… Rossello: Power Turn Off A Bad Call… Ricky Livin' Large… Barrier Falls For Sgt. Camille Alicea … Soldier's Life Celebrated… Bush Declares Puerto Rico Disaster Area… Businesses Complain About Lack Of Power… Law Benefiting Emergency Workers Signed… McClintock: Investigate Decision To Cut The Power Grid

Engineers Ask For Independent Audit On Power Shutdown

September 20, 2004
Copyright © 2004 ASSOCIATED PRESS. All rights reserved. 

PONCE (AP) — The College of Engineers and Surveyors of Puerto Rico (CESPR) asked in a letter to the governor that it be allowed to independently investigate the reasons that the entire island was without electric service during tropical storm Jeanne.

The group’s president, Roberto Rexach, announced Monday that they had also asked the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) for a copy of the protocol that was used during the emergency on Wednesday.

"Our institution has respectfully asked for all the information about the electrical system, which will permit us to recreate the situation and make an objective evaluation of the sequence of events, before and during tropical storm Jeanne," it says in the letter, which was sent to La Fortaleza, to Prepa and to Secretary of State Jose Izquierdo.

In the copy of the letter sent to the Associated Press, it asks Gov. Sila M. Calderon, Izquierdo — also the former president of CESPR — and the executive director of Prepa, Hector Rosario, for the data stored at the Energy Control Center in Monacillos.

The group’s leader reiterated in the letter that the law allows CESPR to make this type of intervention in order to "protect the public interest."

Rossello Says Turning Off The Power A Bad Call

Ray Quintanilla, Sentinel Staff Writer

September 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

DORADO, Puerto Rico -- Hours after President Bush declared Puerto Rico a disaster area, which will bring sorely needed federal funds, commonwealth officials said more than 50 percent of the island remains without water service and electricity.

Governor Sila M. Calderon welcomed Bush's pledge of federal assistance.

The governor Wednesday decided to turn off electrical power across Puerto Rico as a safety precaution, a decision that sparked outrage. That anger continued Saturday.

Without electricity to power the island's pumping stations, the flow of water ended within minutes.

[F]ormer Gov. Pedro Rossello, who is running for the office again, said turning off the power was a bad call. Shutting down the system, he said, may have damaged transformers and other equipment, making it difficult -- if not impossible --for the system to be brought back within a few days.

Back in the neighborhoods, however, the focus has turned from cleaning up to scrambling to find water for cooking, drinking and flushing.

"You can't make dinner or flush the toilet," explained Berlinga Bruno who lives in Dorado's Jacana neighborhood, which has been without water and power since Wednesday.

"The planning and services during this storm were terrible," she said, standing on her balcony. "Nothing went right, and everything, it seems, has gone wrong."

Livin' Large On The Westside

Ruth Ryon

September 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Los Angeles Times. All rights reserved. 

Ricky Martin, whose "Almas del Silencio" is the first Spanish-language album he's made in five years, has purchased a Westside home for close to its $11.9-million asking price.

The pop star, 32, bought a six-bedroom, 11,000-square-foot home on a 2 1/2 -acre knoll behind gates. The newly built Mediterranean-style villa has views from downtown L.A. to the ocean, a gym and a detached guest house. The grounds also have a pool and a tennis court.

Barrier Falls For Hispanic Policewoman

Susan Jacobson

September 19, 2004
Copyright © 2004 THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved. 

Kissimmee police Sgt. Jaime Alberti made history in July when he was named the department's first Hispanic sergeant. Last week, new Sgt. Camille Alicea made history of her own when she became Kissimmee's first Hispanic woman to hold a rank above officer.

Alicea, 33, has been with the department for six years. A wife and mother of two boys, she most recently was a child-abuse investigator. She was born in Puerto Rico and speaks fluent Spanish, an important skill in a city that is nearly half Hispanic.

"I'm very proud, very happy," she said after posing for pictures with her family.

Soldier's Family Celebrates His Life

September 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

RADCLIFF, Ky. (AP) - The family and friends of a soldier killed in Iraq gathered at his church to celebrate his life and ministry.

Staff Sgt. Gary A. Vaillant, 41, had led a Spanish-speaking congregation at the Radcliff Church of God and his funeral service was conducted in Spanish and English.

Vaillant died Sept. 5 in Khalidiya, when his tank ran over an explosive. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 72nd Armor, Camp Casey, Korea.

Vaillant's 12-year-old daughter, Sarah, began Wednesday's service by singing "God Bless the USA."

The song was one of Gary Vaillant's favorites, said his wife, Michaela Vaillant.

"He was not just a United States soldier," Mike Brown said. "He was a soldier of God."

Vaillant also was posthumously presented with the Purple Heart for his actions. Members of the 16th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Knox served as the honor guard for the ceremony.

A native of Trujillo, Puerto Rico, Vaillant had been in the Army for 16 years, also serving in Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s.

Bush Declares Puerto Rico Disaster Area After Jeanne Lashes Island

September 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Agence France Presse. All rights reserved. 

WASHINGTON, Sept 18 (AFP) - US President George W. Bush designated Puerto Rico a disaster zone Saturday, freeing up federal emergency funds to help the US island commonwealth in its recovery efforts after Hurricane Jeanne hammered the Caribbean this week.

"The president today declared a major disaster exists in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and ordered federal aid to supplement commonwealth and local recovery efforts in the area struck by Tropical Storm Jeanne and resulting landslides and mudslides beginning on September 14, 2004 and continuing," the White House said in a statement.

The federal funding "is available on a cost-share basis to commonwealth and eligible local governments in all commonwealth municipalities at 100 percent of the total eligible costs for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance," the statement said.

At least two people died as the storm battered Puerto Rico, a hilly, densely populated island of more than four million, and another four were killed in the Dominican Republic as the storm unleashed floods and caused widespread damage.

The US government also named a coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the area, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency said that "additional forms of assistance may be designated as soon as damage surveys can be completed."

How To Help

Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, 866-280-4357, hurricane hotline operating from 8 a.m. to midnight for information and assistance.

Statement By The White House Press Secretary

September 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004 PR Newswire Association LLC. All rights reserved. 

WASHINGTON, Sept. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- The following is a statement issued by the Press Secretary:

The President today declared a major disaster exists in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and ordered Federal aid to supplement Commonwealth and local recovery efforts in the area struck by Tropical Storm Jeanne and resulting landslides and mudslides beginning on September 14, 2004, and continuing.

Federal funding is available on a cost share basis to Commonwealth and eligible local governments in all Commonwealth municipalities at 100 percent of the total eligible costs for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct Federal assistance. Federal funding is available at 100 percent of the total eligible costs for a period of up to 72 hours.

Federal funding is also available on a cost-share basis for hazard mitigation measures for the entire Commonwealth.

Representing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Michael D. Brown, Under Secretary for Emergency Preparedness and Response, Department of Homeland Security, named Peter Martinasco as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Federal recovery operations in the affected area.

The Agency said that additional forms of assistance may be designated as soon as damage surveys can be completed in the affected area.


Web site:

CONTACT: White House Press Office, +1-202-456-2580

Business Owners Complain About Lack Of Power

By Hilario De Leon

September 18, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) — Business owners, affected by the prolonged blackout on the island due to tropical storm Jeanne, on Friday expressed anger about losses their businesses have suffered, especially those that sell food.

"It has ruined my meat, fruits and vegetables," said William Castillo, owner of the Colmado Plaza Bani on De Diego Avenue in Puerto Nuevo, as he showed cheese that was going bad due to lack of refrigeration.

Dozens of cafeterias and grocery stores in Puerto Nuevo, Rio Piedras and Santurce were closed Friday with no electricity — those areas, like the rest of the island, were in the third consecutive day without power.

The executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, Hector Rosario, said that only 39 percent of the clients currently had electricity and he anticipated that by the weekend 75 percent of clients would have power reestablished.

Juan Pablo De la Cruz, owner of Colmada Vianda on Borinquen Avenue in Barrio Obrero, said that he had to throw away everything that was in the refrigerator because of the power outage.

I had the refrigerator full of cheeses, meat, fish, salami and ham and I had to toss it," De la Cruz said, who also said that the tomatoes, papayas, bananas and milk were ruined.

De la Cruz said that his economic losses were not only the result of ruined food, but also that time that his store was closed.

Reynaldo Medina, owner of Lord Bakery on Borinquen Avenue in Santurce said that he was upset, and added that "the light was shut off on a pure whim."

"They shut off the light on a pure whim. I have had considerable losses in bread, mile, ham and cheese," Medina said, who added that in Hurricane Georges in 1998 he also lost all his merchandise.

Governor Signs Law Benefiting Emergency Workers

September 17, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN (AP) —Gov. Sila M. Calderon on Thursday signed into law a bill that exempts government employees that have been activated during a emergency declared on the island from paying taxes, La Fortaleza announced.

The bill establishes that the exemption for these employees from paying taxes is in the interest of compensating them for the work they do to help the island recover from a disaster.

"These anonymous public service heroes do this recovery work, even when it involves leaving their family for more than 12 to 16 hour workdays in unfavorable conditions caused by the effects of bad weather," the governor said in a statement.

Agency chiefs and the employers who activate workers during emergencies can submit to the Treasury Secretary lists that identify these employees.

McClintock Calls For Investigation Of Decision To Cut The Power Grid

By Ray Quintanilla and Matthew Hay Brown | Sentinel Staff Writers

September 17, 2004
Copyright © 2004 THE ORLANDO SENTINEL. All rights reserved. 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Anger, confusion and fear spread throughout this U.S. commonwealth Thursday as nearly all 4 million residents endured their second day without electricity, 600,000 struggled without water and cresting rivers flooded hundreds more out of their homes in the wake of Tropical Storm Jeanne.

[M]eanwhile, another storm grew stronger by the hour -- this one churned up by Gov. Sila Calderón's decision Wednesday to shut down all electrical power on the island when winds strengthened to near-hurricane force.

[C]ritics asked whether the unprecedented move did more harm than good.

"Obviously, something was done wrong," said Puerto Rico Senate Minority Leader Kenneth McClintock.

McClintock said the focus of government now should be on restoring service safely. After the coming gubernatorial election, he said, a blue-ribbon panel should investigate Calderón's decision to cut the power grid.

Maya Bell of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report.

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