Wednesday, May 30, 2007

New Zealand energy company shuts off power, woman dies

By Michael J.W. Stickings


A New Zealand woman on an oxygen machine died after an energy firm switched off her power supply because of unpaid bills, her family claims.

Folole Muliaga, a 44-year-old mother of four, died within two hours of the electricity being switched off at her home in the northern city of Auckland.

The company, Mercury Energy, claims not to have known about the machine. The woman's family claimed it told a company representative about the machine and what would happen if the electricity was shut off. One is tempted to believe the family, though of course the representative -- i.e., a technician -- was probably just doing his job. But who knows? Maybe the company, as it put it, was indeed "simply unaware that loss of electricity to the household was putting a vulnerable customer at risk". And since the woman, a schoolteacher, was on leave for medical reasons and behind on her bills (likely well behind on her bills), one wonders why she, or her family, didn't prepare for this possible eventuality with a back-up system.

Regardless of who knew what, it's a pretty awful story.

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