Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Cold, death and darkness in the great Texas blackout


What seemed like another cold day in Texas ended with the death of Cristian Pavón Pineda, 11, in Conroe. Investigators have yet to confirm the reason, but his family believes the death was due to hypothermia due to a power failure that hit the US state last week.

The family, a native of Honduras, lived in a mobile home that, according to what a spokesman for the local police department told the Houston Chronicle (HIC), was about 40 years old and little isolated.

“He was very happy that day. He was not sick,” said Cristian’s mother, explaining that the afternoon before his death, last Monday, the child, who saw snow for the first time, had been playing outside of the House.

Without electricity since Sunday night and with the temperature in the house to one digit, the parents put the child to sleep with the three-year-old brother so they could keep warm, but in the morning Cristian was already dead. Although without official figures, The Washington Post points out that the Texas cold has already claimed 70 fatalities.

The climate catastrophe that has haunted the population has lasted for more than a week. Although Texas claims, according to the BBC, to be the largest energy producer in the country and one of the largest in the world, it is estimated that, last week, 4 million inhabitants were left in the dark. The impact on electricity, water, heating, fatalities and transport prompted an investigation into the unpreparedness for the impact of the weather, despite warnings given two weeks in advance, according to John Murphy, the operational director of the National Weather Service (NWS in the acronym in English).

Houston President Sylvester Turner asked the state of Texas to pay electricity bills, in some cases astronomical. “Everything that happened this week was predictable and preventable,” he told Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBS). Turner declared that “the exorbitant costs must be borne by the state of Texas, and not by the individual consumers who did not cause this catastrophe”. Some residents reported bills of more than $ 16,000, about 13,000 euros.

Although much of the power supply has already been restored, some 30,000 people were still without power on Sunday afternoon, according to the Poweroutage.us website, which is responsible for tracking power outages in the U.S.

“We have a responsibility to protect Texans from increases in their energy bills that are the result of a harsh winter,” said Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott.

President Joe Biden on Saturday issued a disaster declaration for much of the state providing financial and administrative assistance.

“Assistance may include subsidies for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover losses on uninsured properties and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster,” said the White House statement.

Michael McCaul, a Republican congressman from Texas, said the financial impact of the cold snap could be the same as that of Hurricane Harvey, which in 2017 caused damage estimated at $ 125 billion, about € 103 billion.





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