March 8, 2014
Blackouts: gov’ts finally join forces
City, federal officials step up relief efforts two weeks after power outages first hit region
Almost two weeks after Buenos Aires City and its suburbs became engulfed in a heat wave that led to record electricity consumption and rolling blackouts, the federal and City administrations yesterday met to coordinate tasks and work together in order to help the thousands of families affected by power outages.
Around 11,000 users were still affected by power cuts in the metropolitan area yesterday, Federal Security Minister María Cecilia Rodríguez and her City counterpart Guillermo Montenegro revealed yesterday following a meeting.
It marked the second time in the day City and federal officials sat down to discuss relief efforts for beleaguered residents.
The rare cooperation between the two administratinos came on the same day as the federal government and Buenos Aires province governments followed in the steps of the City administration and also decreed a mandatory leave for state workers today in light of the recent outages.
The Emergency Services Headquarters located in City neighbourhood of Colegiales was the site of the first meeting of the day, when City Deputy Mayor María Eugenia Vidal, federal Emergency Director Carlos Zoloaga and City Cabinet Chief Horacio Rodríguez Larreta sat down for talks.
That was followed by the meeting between Federal Security Minister María Cecilia Rodríguez and her City counterpart Guillermo Montenegro late in the afternoon.
“There are now fewer residents without power,” Rodríguez said after revealing that some 11,000 homes remained without power in the region.
Montenegro said some 4,500 relief workers were mobilized, including Metropolitan Police officers and SAME health workers.
City officials decided to press the accelerator on relief efforts after Mayor Mauricio Macri announced Saturday he was declaring the state of emergency in the district in order to speed up funding of a contingency programme — a move that only came after repeated roadblocks and street protests to demand a restitution of service after blackouts that often lasted for days.
Even though the City and federal governments seemed more intent on pointing fingers for the blackouts, officials insisted they had been working together all along.
“Both governments have been working together and we will continue to do this much better since the creation of this committee,” Vidal said during a news conference.
The PRO party leader also explained that during the meeting officials agreed upon the measures that will be taken in order to assist the City residents who do not have essential services.
“Sanitary assistance and evacuations have been coordinated. There will be three shelters that those affected can use,” Vidal added.
The potential handing over of oversight of energy distribution to the City administration — hinted days ago by Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich — “was not discussed,” Vidal said. “It is not the right time.”
Both administrations have been accusing each other of not reacting as they should after the power went out in several neighbourhood in the middle of a heat wave that is affecting the City and surrounding areas.
Yesterday saw another sweltering day in the country’s capital, with a high of 38 degrees Celsius, and the National Meteorological Service (SMN) maintained its red alert for the sixth straight day.
Gov’t decrees leave
Yesterday, the federal and Buenos Aires province governments followed the steps of the City administration and also decreed a mandatory leave for state workers today in light of the recent outages.
Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich was charged with making the announcement as he defended the government’s response to the energy crisis.
“Following orders from the president, we’ve been working (on this issue) not from today, but since this heat wave began to be considered an extreme one,” Capitanich said during a televised report recorded at his Government House office.
The leave, he said, was decided to better address the demands created by the current sanitary emergency and will begin today at 12pm.
Hours later, Buenos Aires province Cabinet Chief Alberto Pérez said Governor Daniel Scioli had also decided to decree a leave for today.
Heat, outages continue
As power outages continued in thousands of homes, neighbours from different affected areas kept on staging protests in the streets, constructing improvised road blocks in hopes of getting their demands heard.
Protests were held in the neighbourhoods of Flores, Mataderos, Villa Lugano, Colegiales, San Telmo, Almagro and Boedo yesterday.
Herald DyN, Télam
Three die in Dock Sud fire
A young woman and her two sons died during a fire at their tenement house in the southern Greater Buenos Aires area of Avellaneda. The fire was allegedly caused by a candle that was lit following a series of power outages that affected the area. The house was located in Pasaje Superí street, in the the Dock Sud neighbourhood, where yesterday afternoon firemen were still drenching the remains of the buildings that went up in flames.
Theatre marquees go dark
The Argentine Association of Theatre Producers (AADET) yesterday said it has decided that all the marquees of the main Buenos Aires theatres will be voluntarily shut off starting today “in solidarity with those affected by power cuts.” The measure — taken “in face of the ongoing energy crisis” — will last for at least seven days, AADET said in a news release.