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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- Spoiled food. Damaged appliances. Shuttered businesses.

A recent increase in power outages is taking a heavy toll on Puerto Rico as the U.S. territory's heavily indebted public power company struggles to modernize decades-old equipment that is crumbling amid a deep economic crisis.

The frequent loss of power, coupled with rising power bills, is spooking potential investors. It has frustrated business owners who complain of lost revenue and forced homeowners to buy new appliances amid unexpected surges.

"It's never been worse," Mariela Aguirre, a 49-year-old sales trainer, said of the weekly outages in her neighborhood tucked in an upscale suburb near the capital. "This is turning into a Third World country."

The cycle of homes and businesses being plunged into darkness only to be jolted awake by appliances that beep, whir and hum back to life has become common across the island for tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans such as Aguirre who cannot afford generators to offset the costly interruptions.

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