Across Central America, boosting access to electricity has been a key development priority for national governments, private corporations and international organizations in the last few decades. And according to data from the World Bank, the rate of access to electricity in Panama far exceeds the global average, having increased very steadily in the last quarter-century. Interestingly though, Panama’s electrification rate still trails those in El Salvador and Costa Rica, with Honduras having the lowest rate in Central America. However, widespread electricity blackouts are more commonplace in Central America than these statistics indicate.
PANAMA CITY: A massive power outage hit Panama on Sunday (Jan 20), three days before the arrival of Pope Francis for a World Youth Day festival, authorities said.
The electric power company ETESA said service to various parts of the country had been affected by “an event in the integrated national system.”
“Teams are working to re-establish service as soon as possible,” the company said on Twitter.
ETESA, which gave no details on the cause of the outage, said power would be restored gradually.
Despite the outage, the capital city’s Tocumen International Airport and the busy and vital Panama Canal were able to activate backup systems and maintain normal operations, authorities said.
But water supplies were affected in several parts of the country. The water treatment plant serving Panama City was among those knocked out, the country’s Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers said on Twitter.
Domingo Espitia, coordinator of an interagency task force preparing for the papal visit, said that contingency plans had been successfully implemented when the power went out.
“The Panamanian state is prepared for this type of contingency,” he told reporters. He said Tocumen airport had maintained “100 percent” of its normal operations.
When traffic lights went out, Espitia added, authorities “immediately took control” to keep traffic moving.
Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Panama from Wednesday until Sunday (Jan 27) for the World Youth Day festival, which is expected to draw at least 200,000 people.