x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Sharjah counts cost of pulling the plug

From guests trapped in lifts to cancelled weddings and parties, losses are running into tens of thousands of dirhams for businessmen.

SHARJAH // Though it has been only a week since the latest power cuts began in Sharjah, businesses are already counting their losses in tens of thousands of dirhams due to spoiled food and postponed events. Restaurants in particular are bearing the brunt. Farhat Yaqoub, the general manager of the Asian Palace Restaurant in the Rolla area, said he has lost about Dh80,000 (US$21,750).

"I have had to cancel 17 functions, including weddings and other parties, in the last five days worth Dh65,000 and lost about Dh15,000 in individual food purchases and dining at the restaurant," he said. "Four of my customers were stuck in a lift on Monday when the power went. They were without a mobile phone signal and couldn't raise the alarm until they were rescued by the building security personnel.

"After this incident they couldn't even eat because it was so hot inside and decided to go elsewhere." Mr Yaqoub said he had contacted the authorities to enlist their assistance, but his efforts were in vain. He spoke with the Department of Economic Development before moving on to the Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority, Sharjah Municipality and the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce. He considered buying a generator to provide power for his business. However, he found that would not help as the central air conditioner for the whole building could be compromised.

He was not the only one who suffered. Ihsan al Mahmoud, the owner of the Noor al Rayan restaurant on Al Wahda Street, said the loss of power cost his business Dh30,000 after it lost about 30 food orders during the weekend. "Even the food we cooked on Sunday was from our Dubai branch. Work had completely stopped on the weekends and we had to devise options for Sunday." Qassim Abdullah, who owns the Tazzaj Lubnan eatery, said he lost Dh125,000 in last year's summer power crisis and was already half way to that figure this year. "It's only one week, but we have lost about Dh60,000. If this problem continues until the end of summer, like it did last year, my losses would go to many thousands. Who knows, I may even lose the business."

Concern over possible sales of spoilt foods has led Sharjah Municipality officials to warn they would be conducting surprise inspections in grocery stores, butcher shops, fruit and vegetable markets and other food outlets this week. Sultan al Mualla, the director general of Sharjah Municipality, said that inspectors were not only being guided by expiry dates on food items, but were also taking steps to ensure the products were safe, stressing that some could go bad before their expiry dates because of the power cuts.

"Our team of inspectors has today been in Abu Shagara, Rolla, al Majaz and al Qassimiya," he said. "Tomorrow we may return to some areas or go to others." Mr al Mualla declined to say if the inspections had uncovered any offences or bad food on the shelves. While the supply of power was stable yesterday in most residential areas, some business in industrial areas experienced brief cuts in the morning.