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Schools Close in Panama Due to Energy Crisis

Panama is facing an energy crisis that could paralyze the whole country, due in part to the delay in the start of the rainy season.

This is how Prensa Latina [es] starts a report about this drought:

Con un régimen pluvial privilegiado por su condición de istmo favorecido por los dos principales océanos del planeta, en Panamá históricamente llueve nueve meses del año y sus caudalosos ríos y abundantes lagos siempre están saturados.

Sin embargo, el cambio climático se está sintiendo en las cuencas de toda su geografía y pocas escapan a una escasez de lluvias pronunciada, mientras ecologistas y ambientalistas como Raisa Bansfield alertan que a ese fenómeno contribuye la acción del hombre.

With a privileged rain regime due to its condition of isthmus blessed by the two main oceans in the world, historically in Panama it rains nine months per year, and its mighty rivers and plentiful lakes are always full.

Climate change, however, is being felt in the watersheds all along the country's geography and just a few are free from a prolonged lack of rains, while ecologists and environmentalists, such as Raisa Bansfield, warn that human behavior adds to this phenomenon.

The government is trying to avoid scheduled power cuts that could cause losses of up to 3.7 million dollars per hour, as Prensa Latina [es] reports:

La Cámara de Comercio alertó que el sector podría perder 3,7 millones de dólares por cada hora de apagón si se llega a tomar esa medida como resultado de una baja en la generación eléctrica motivada por el descenso del nivel de las aguas en ríos y represas que abastecen a las hidroeléctricas.

The Chamber of Commerce warned that the sector might lose 3.7 million dollars during each hour of the blackout, if this measure is taken as result of a decrease in electrical production due to the drop of water levels in rivers and dams that supply hydroelectric centrals.

The drought has affected the main hydroelectric centrals of the country, motivating authorities to take drastic measures like turning off bright signs, allowing the crossing of two ships at the same time through the canal, or closing supermarkets at 10:00 pm, among other actions.

What has caused more reactions, however, is the closing of private and public schools for three days.

Meme que se ha compartido ampliamente en redes sociales.

Image widely shared through social networks.
- OK! We need ideas to fight this energy crisis!!!
- Let's close schools…
- … and college…
- … or the malls which consume more.

Ivana Tejada (@IvanaTejada) [es], for instance, believes that authorities have been unable to prevent this crisis and are now reacting when it's too late:

@IvanaTejada Incapaces de prevenir las cosas, esperan que el país esté en crisis para tomar medidas drásticas. A ellos les dimos el poder.

@IvanaTejada [es]: Unable to prevent things, they wait for the country to be in crisis to take such drastic actions. We gave power to them.

Jorge Yau (@mopx) [es] thinks suspending classes is an overkill, and claims that it is possible to study without so many electronics devices:

@mopx: En mis tiempos lo único eléctrico en el salón era el abanico de techo, que usan los chiquillos ahora? iPad, Laptop, WIFI, silla masajeadora?

@mopx [es]: Back in the day, the only electric thing in the classroom was the ceiling fan. What do kids use now? iPad, Laptop, WIFI, a massage chair?

For Mery (@megirom) [es] suspending classes to save energy consumption doesn't make sense, as students will be consuming electricity at home.

@megirom: Claro, porque los estudiantes van a estar en sus casas leyendo bajo la luz de la guaricha. [*En Panamá se le llama guaricha a una fuente rustica de luz artificial, por lo genera un mechón con querosén.]

@megirom [es]: Certainly, because students will be at home reading under the light of a guaricha [*in Panama, a guaricha is a rustic source of artificial light, usually a fuse with kerosene].

Oliver (OliverCh17) [es] agrees and thinks that simple math proves that suspending classes will cause more consumption:

@OliverCh17: Matemática simple, 30 niños juntos en un aula de clases o 30 casas con niños consumiendo + energía. . . GENIOS!!!

@OliverCh17 [es]: Simple math, 30 children together playing in a classroom, or 30 houses with children consuming more energy… GENIUSES!!!

For Tito Herrera (@TitoHerrera) [es] the measure will allow government not only to save energy, but explanations:

@TitoHerrera: Ahorro de Energía según el gobierno: “Cerrando las escuelas también cerramos los cerebros, esto representa un ahorro en dar explicaciones”

@TitoHerrera [es]: Energy saving according to the government: “By closing schools we will also close brains, that means saving explanations”.

What's true is that measures will increase and power cuts have been announced if not enough rain falls in the coming days, as La Prensa [es] reports:

Los cortes programados de energía se aplicarían durante los próximos días si no hay agua de lluvia para los embalses de las hidroeléctricas de Fortuna en Chiriquí y Bayano en Panamá.

Scheduled power cuts will be set during the following days if there is no rain water for Fortuna in Chiriquí and Bayano in Panama hydroelectrial central reservoirs.

Rain in several parts of the country in the morning of Thursday, May 9, 2013, has given Panamanians hope that the crisis will find a natural solution without having to take more extreme measures. TVN [es] explains:

Este jueves amaneció lloviendo en Arraiján y otras comunidades de Panamá Oeste, así como en Chilibre, Panamá Norte y la comarca Guna Yala, lo que llenó de esperanza a los panameños de que entre de lleno la estación lluviosa y se recuperen los embalses de las hidroeléctricas Fortuna y Bayano.

On Thursday, day broke with rain showers in Arraiján and other communities in Western Panama, as well as in Chilibre, Northern Panama and Guna Yala region, giving hope to Panamanians that the rainy season might be about to kick off and the Fortuna y Bayano hydroelectrical central reservoirs might recover [their usual levels].

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