A heat wave which reached 36 Celsius caused on Wednesday a massive blackout in Argentina’s capital with an estimated three million people suffering lack of power plus such emblematic sites as Government House (Casa Rosada), Congress and the posh district of Puerto Madero.
The collapse which extended to several Buenos Aires City neighbourhoods and southern areas of Greater Buenos Aires leading to heavy traffic jams in the main avenues, power cuts of traffic lights and suspension of train and subway lines' services, comes only a week after the capital collapsed under intense rain and flash floods.
Partial blackouts had been recurrent in the Argentine capital since the fierce storm of a week ago flooded some electricity generation plants, but this time the heat also knocked out 1.500 traffic lights, six subway lines and several urban train services.
Power company Edesur, currently under government intervention and which covers most of the areas affected said through a spokesperson that “it is a problem we are trying to determine to define with precision what happened and how to deal with it”.
Spokesperson Alejandra Martínez, stated that the cuts were due to a high tension incident. Besides, she anticipated that the service will be normalized as hours go by. However subway and urban trains’ offices reported there “is no estimated time for the resumption of services”.
“This year’s record consumption of 3.552 MW from last July 15 was broken this afternoon when it peaked 3.560 MW. The contingency is being solved and we are now concentrated on the focus of the problem” said Ms Martinez.
Buenos Aires media consulted experts on the reasons of the recurrent failures and most coincided that “we are consuming the last investments from the nineties. Since then the only thing have been patches and the government does not dare address the main and only problem which is charging the full power rates so that generating plants and distributors can again make the needed investments”.
Only a month ago Argentine Federal Planning minister Julio De Vido went on national television to say that the “electrical system was perfectly prepared to cope with the summer season” and discarded massive blackouts or brownouts.
De Vido added that “Edesur has been intervened to ensure the service and the Planning ministry and the Power Commission will not allow the deterioration of the service quality”.
But Buenos Aires residents’ challenges were not limited to the blackout. Secretary of Public Works Jose Lopez admitted problems with the supply of drinking water and peak consumption and called to look after the water.
“We are asking neighbours to look after the water” said Lopez confessing that production was down 7% on Tuesday and between 10% and 12% on Wednesday. “That is why we are asking people to save water and thus avoid major problems”.
Another stinking problem has been the accumulation of garbage because of industrial action from the city’s sanitary workers. Even when the conflict was lifted on Tuesday, tens of tons of garbage remain uncollected and fermenting with the heat in Buenos Aires streets.
“We have crews in the city spraying the bags and heaps with insecticides to kill bugs, flies and cockroaches and protect the health of neighbours and the city’s sanitation” said Diego Santelli responsible for Buenos Aires city Environment and Public Spaces office