A blackout along the entire north-west of Trinidad forced dozens of businesses in downtown Port of Spain to halt Christmas shopping amid a rush of people yesterday afternoon.
The busy streets downtown gave no indication of the darkness that loomed within the malls and stores along Frederick, Henry and Charlotte Streets.
A few of the malls opted to lock their main entrances while they waited for the return of electricity and what was a planned evening of late Christmas sales. Employees peered through the glass doors of many businesses where the closed signs indicated they were unable to conduct business because of the loss of power.
There were others who, tired of standing, sat on the floors in front of showcases behind the glass doors, waiting for the power to return.
Speaking with visibly irate business owners, the Express learned the power in the main shopping areas had been down for more than 20 minutes, which the business owners described as "crucial time" lost.
"We are saying this is sabotage. In Port of Spain, this Government suffering businesses in Port of Spain, and business in Chaguanas and San Fernando functioning normal. Is all kind of sabotage to Port of Spain business. It has been down 20 minutes, and when it went, the place was busy like hell," one business owner said.
Another business owner said, "This 20 minutes that the power has been down is very, very crucial time. I could show you on my system, QuickBooks Point of Sale, where I am constantly tracking my sales, and sometimes, it could take two hours to make $2,000, but sometimes, in 20 minutes, you make $10,000.
"This is the worst time to be a merchant—this Government, I don't know where their planning is, but it is very poor concerning the electricity; that is one, and the parking is another issue," he said.
Stacy, another business owner who was locking up her store, told the Express she was leaving to return because they planned to open till 8 p.m. last evening.
"This is affecting us very badly because the store was very busy before the power left, hopefully when we reopen, they will pick back up from where they left off," she said.
The Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission's (T&TEC) communications manager, Annabelle Brasnell, told the Express the blackout, which affected downtown past 5.15 p.m., was caused by a generator that went down at PowerGen in Port of Spain.
"Essentially, the power went from Port of Spain right down to the end of west Trinidad. The majority of customers would have been back up in under just a half-hour, and the balance would have come back up in the last 15 minutes.
"But Port of Spain would have been the last to come back up. It is taking us longer than we thought it would to get power back up in Port of Spain.
"The generator has not been fixed, and so we are bringing power into Port of Spain. I cannot give you a specific time that it will be back up at this time, but we are looking at about 20 minutes," she said.
There was no official word from PowerGen up to that time on what caused the generator to go down, she said.