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Texas mayor apologises over power outage

Updated on: 05 February,2023 08:45 AM IST  |  Austin
Agencies |

Impatience among frazzled, freezing and fed-up families in Austin escalated even as milder weather returned

Texas mayor apologises over power outage

A resident uses a handsaw to remove a large tree that fell in his yard in Austin, Texas, following a winter ice storm. Pic/AP

Widespread power outages in the Texas capital stretched into a third day for thousands of residents following a winter storm that was spiralling into a management crisis as city leaders remained unable to say when all the lights would come back on.

Impatience among frazzled, freezing and fed-up families in Austin escalated even as milder weather returned. On Friday, the newly elected mayor stood before cameras and apologised after a week of slow repairs, failed technology and lacking communication with the public. “The city let its citizens down. The situation is unacceptable to the community, and it's unacceptable to me,” said Mayor Kirk Watson, a Democrat who took office in January. “And I’m sorry”.

While New England began shivering and closed schools under an Arctic blast expected to bring the coldest weather in a generation, temperatures finally started to moderate and bring some relief to Austin, where at any given time about 30 per cent of customers in the nation’s 11th-largest city have been without electricity since the ice storm swept into Texas late on Monday.

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City officials said that significant progress was finally being made as frozen equipment and roads thawed. About 1,17,000 customers still lacked power, according to Austin Energy, the city’s utility. That’s down from a peak of around 1,70,000 people, nearly a third of all customers.

But frustration was not melting away for residents who still had no assurances or sense of when their power would return. “I just honestly think they were not prepared for any of this,” said Edward Kim, 43, whose home had been without power or heat since Wednesday. He was using a generator to keep his house “on life support,” while his wife took her seven-year-old daughter to her office to get a shower.

For many, the outages stirred unpleasant memories of the 2021 blackouts in Texas, when hundreds of people died after the state’s power grid was pushed to the brink of total failure because of a lack of generation. Energy experts said Austin’s dense tree canopy made the outages caused by fallen trees and iced-over power lines more widespread.

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