(SKY NEWS) — The longest nationwide power outage in world history is threatening to plunge Venezuela into even further chaos.
Shops, businesses, schools and hotels are closed because of the lack of power.
Communication and telephone systems have collapsed.
There are no flights from any of the country’s airports.
There is no water in taps. People are queuing with bottles at mountain wells.
Hospitals already severely malfunctioning through chronic shortages of medical supplies are struggling to keep patients alive.
In one of the main indoor markets in downtown Caracas we found people and stall owners conversing in a virtual twilight, although it was the middle of the day. Like everywhere else in the country, there is no power here.
The only light comes from the fishmonger. They are the only ones in this huge market complex with a generator.
The butchers’ shops are mainly shuttered and empty. In some the meat is just rotting away.
Fruit and veg is available but can only be paid for with a bank card, if they can get a signal for the machine, or US dollars.
The country’s hyper-inflation basically means there is no local money, or certainly not enough you could find to pay for anything.
Rosa Gonzalez, running her fruit store, told me she is letting people have fruit that is about to go off in the hope that they will pay her later. Her stock needs light and coolers. She has nothing.
“We are accepting dollars, lots of people come with dollars. We also accept euros and bank transfers,” she told me.
“Sometimes we let people take the food and come back and pay another day, and if they don’t come back, well that’s how it is.”
Everyone is affected in Venezuela but it’s the middle classes, unused to being short of anything, who are suffering the most.
They seem at a total loss as to what to do. Many have reverted to booking themselves into five star hotels to survive the “disaster”.
But power is going out in the hotels as well, as overloaded generators are burning up.
What was normally considered an absolute given in this society is falling apart, and not slowly.
This is the country with the largest known oil reserves in the world. They barely charge for it. But without power one can’t get to it. It’s sort of priceless now.
The queue for one garage with a generator is miles long.
Driving around the city it is easy to see how things can fall apart.
Long tunnels are now pitch black.
On motorways cars simply pull over in the fast lane if they find a place with a telephone signal.
People now stand in line outside supermarkets, not to go in, but in the hope they may eventually open.
The political crisis here could soon be eclipsed by this increasingly dangerous national disaster.
Interestingly for the poorest classes, who live in the barrios to the far east and west of the capital and are used to this sort of thing, life is pretty much the same as always. The power cut is levelling the playing field.