Drought-stricken Panama orders power rationing, closes schools
Panama on Tuesday ordered government offices and private businesses to slash their power consumption and temporarily closed schools in response to a drought that has sapped the country's hydroelectric energy supply.
Opening hours for government offices will be reduced, while supermarkets, bars, cinemas, restaurants, casinos and other night spots would have to close between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. from Monday to Thursday, according to a statement from the president's office.
Private businesses in the tropical Central American nation will also be forced to cut air-conditioning use by four hours a day, beginning Wednesday. It's unclear how long the rationing will last, though government officials say they would reconsider on Sunday how soon they could re-open schools.
Panama, one of Latin America's fastest-growing economies, uses hydroelectric power to generate 60 percent of its electricity.
But reservoirs are now low after months without rain.
The Panama Canal, which transports about five percent of world trade, is unaffected by the power rationing because it produces its own energy, a spokeswoman said.
The drought has killed hundreds of cattle, damaged crops, and caused some $200 million in losses in Panama. The government on Tuesday declared a drought emergency in four provinces, representing about a third of the nation's territory. Reuters