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Puerto Rico authorities: Nearly half of power customers still lack electricity

Christmas in Puerto Rico
Christmas in Puerto Rico 01:05

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Puerto Rico authorities say nearly half of power customers in the U.S. territory still lack electricity more than three months after Hurricane Maria. 

Officials said Friday that 55 percent of the nearly 1.5 million customers have power. It is the first time the government has given that statistic since the Category 4 storm hit on Sept. 20 with winds of up to 154 mph. It has previously reported power generation, which stands at nearly 70 percent of pre-storm levels. 

Power company spokesman Geraldo Quinones told The Associated Press that the damage was severe and a lot of work remains. 

In October, Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello announced an "aggressive" rebuilding plan for the island, promising to fully restore electricity by Christmas.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has said the entire island will have power by May.  

Puerto Rico hurricane deaths 00:57

Based at a new Joint Field Operations Center west of the capital San Juan in Guaynabo, 2,600 personnel from FEMA and other federal agencies were working through the holidays, CBS News' Nicole Sganga reported.   

For some residents, no words can fully capture the devastation. Carmelo Lima, 66, swept his hand across the view of the mountainside next to his uncle's former home recently, remembering how paradisiacal the backyard used to be.

"It's real difficult to tell you how it was," he said. "There was a ranch right here. And there was another one right here." His hand panned across the vista. "And they used to make barbecuing right here. And they used to play dominoes here everyday. And everything was real nice. It was green." What remains now sits crushed under a mudslide.

"We live on generators now," Lima said before walking down his family's block. After passing the homes of three brothers-in-law and one sister-in-law, he arrives at his doorstep. "I come here everyday, open this gate. And I come down here," he says, hopping down the steep staircase into his basement. "This is everyday for four months I'm doing this. And I got the generator right here."

Some Puerto Ricans are still buying bottled water in bulk. William Rosada, an amputee from Naranjito who's confined to a wheelchair, relies on water deliveries from friendly neighbors.

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