March 9, 2014
Outages: Chinese supermarkets vow action
Community touts suing national government, utilities over power cuts and losses
Chinese-owned supermarkets in Buenos Aires City and Buenos Aires province will sue power distribution firms Edesur and Edenor, as well as the federal watchdog agencies, after they suffered some 50 million pesos in damages caused by the repeated power cuts of recent weeks, according to the Federation of Chinese Supermarkets and Associations (FSAC).
Meanwhile, the national government said yesterday that the blackouts that have engulfed the City and its suburbs were easing as nearly 98 percent of affected clients have seen their service restored.
Yet the restoration of service came too late for some.
“Over the last 15 days, there has been a total loss of nine million pesos in goods. Another two million pesos were lost when electronic devices malfunctioned, including freezers, after voltage fluctuation and continuous reconnections and finally there was a drop in sales expectations of about 40 million pesos,” the Chinese group’s director Miguel Calvete charged.
According to Calvete, a census carried out by the federation he leads determined that 871 establishments were “seriously hit” by the energy cuts over the last three weeks in the region.
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The FSAC established that eight percent of its registered member business had been affected by power cuts.
As a consequence, the legal arm of the organization is working side by side with consumer associations in order to file a complaint in court against national authorities in charge of overseeing Edenor and Edesur.
Power watchdog ENRE is the most complicated of these governmental bodies and has been heavily criticized in the current energy crisis — mainly by opposition politicians — for its “soft-line supervision” on Edesur and Edenor, the two distributors that are under national control.
“The fact that perishable foods could not be sold had a negative effect on other products and that generated a decrease in all earnings,” Calvete pointed out.
The Chinese supermarkets’ spokesman added that owners had therefore had to assume all related costs and “made a huge effort to cope with rent and salary payments.”
Although key government officials, including Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich and Planning Minister Julio De Vido, had sought to lay all the blame on the private distributors, the Chinese-owned supermarkets appear to want to also place some of the responsibility on the government.
“Problems were centred on the distribution circuit, and power firms will have to make the necessary investments to overcome those problems,” outlined Capitanich last Monday in his daily briefing to the press.
On that occasion, the former Chaco governor — who took over as Cabinet chief after Cabinet reshuffle following a mid-term defeat for Kirchnerism — also suggested that only “one to three percent of (power company) clients” were affected by power cuts.
Numerous protests continued yesterday across City neighbourhoods where the blackout persisted. In some cases, the ongoing darkness was only interrupted by a few hours of electricity supply such as in Parque Chas.
Other areas like Caballito and Villa Santa Rita and the Buenos Aires province districts of City Bell, La Plata and Lanús were not as fortunate.
At Membrillar street and Directorio avenue, an accident occurred when Edesur technicians were fixing a burned-out underground cable that plunged part of the Flores neighbourhood into darkness.
After the excavation and when one of the workers was using the blowtorch to seal the repair, a broken gas pipe —apparently already broken— caught fire and forced the technicians to abort their work until the Metrogas gas firm could guarantee their safety.
The Security Ministry’s Unified Crisis Centre announced that energy supply was restored to 98 percent of clients and declared it would continue working until all of them were once again connected to the network.
“Personnel from the four federal forces — Federal Police, Border Guards, Coast Guards and Airport Security Police — assist each technician’s team, not only to protect them but also by providing logistic cooperation to speed up the restoration of the service,” the ministry said in a news release.
Herald wity DyN, Télam
A break from the red alert.
The heat wave that affects the metropolitan area seems to be easing. The National Weather Service yesterday dropped the red alert to yellow. A yellow alert means that heat can still be dangerous for babies, little children and elderly people over 65. The temperature is expected to drop today as storms are forecast for Buenos Aires City and the surrounding areas.