A mysterious electrical problem in New York blamed for subway delays, flight cancellations and power cuts on the hottest days of the year persisted for a fifth day today, leaving 25,000 city customers without power.
Power company Con Edison initially said that fewer than 2,000 customers were affected, but it increased that number tenfold this morning.
“Previous estimates were based on the number of customers who had called the company to say they were without electricity,” the utility said in a statement.
Con Edison also said that 35,000 customers in Westchester County – not the 25,000 reported earlier – lost power after Tuesday’s storm. About 6,000 were still out this morning.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, speaking on his weekly radio show, said he was “annoyed” by the news because “we might have thrown more resources into the area.”
“The sad thing is, this shouldn’t have happened,” Bloomberg said. “We don’t know why, but the most important thing – make sure nobody dies or gets hurt and then help Con Ed to get it back up.”
Bloomberg said the utility’s latest estimat was that most of the problems could be fixed by the end of the weekend.
The blackouts started Monday in a handful of neighbourhoods in Queens. Two LaGuardia Airport terminals lost power Monday night and again on Tuesday.
Hundreds of businesses have since been idle, and the city’s jail complex on Rikers Island had to operate on backup generators. Some building elevators were not running and traffic lights at some intersections were not working.
“This is outrageous,” City Councilman Peter Vallone said. “When is this going to be fixed? If it’s going to be days, they should tell people it is going to be days.”
The blackouts were at their worst on Wednesday, when 10 of the 22 feeder cables that supply the area with power were down simultaneously. The temperature had hit 100 degrees (38 Celsius) in the neighbourhood the day before.
Consolidated Edison spokesman Chris Olert said the power company was making every effort to get the situation fixed but could not estimate when that might happen. He said the company did not know why things went wrong.
“Chances are fair, but not firm, that it was heat related, but right now that is just a hypothesis,” he said.
Bloomberg demanded that the utility investigate and deliver a report on the cause within two weeks.
That was little consolation for Gianni DellaPolla, 26, a baker at Gian & Piero Bakery.
“We probably lost £15,000 in business in three days,” DellaPolla told the Daily News. “Everything like wedding cakes, eggs, creams, we had to throw all that out.