Bridgeport: Angry residents pelted utility crews with eggs as they tried to restore power in Bridgeport, Conn., after the mayor claimed the local power company had “shortchanged” the state’s largest city as it tries to recover from superstorm Sandy.
United Illuminating workers reported eggs and other objects being thrown at them a day after Mayor Bill Finch said the utility was taking care of wealthy suburbs while his constituents suffered. The unrest caused United Illuminating to pull its workers out until the city agreed to provide police protection.
“Citizens began throwing things at the crews,” Michael West, a spokesman for United Illuminating, told FoxNews.com. “It started to get pretty hairy. They did not feel safe.”
West said it started with verbal abuse and escalated.
“We communicated with the city and said if you don’t provide police support, we can’t have our crews there in harm’s way,” he said.
West also took issue with Finch’s claims, made at a Wednesday press conference.
“I’m sick and tired of Bridgeport being shortchanged,” Finch said, noting that Bridgeport has the largest number of United Illuminating ratepayers and claimingg it should be treated better by the New Haven-based utility.
United Illuminating has denied giving priority to wealthy customers, while ignoring Bridgeport residents.
“Clearly people took to heart what they heard, even though it was not factual,” West said of the reported incidents Wednesday. “We don’t choose favorites.”
He said the city agreed to provide police support to UI workers after the company made the request.
The Wall Street Journal reported that 25,000 homes and business in Bridgeport were still without power Thursday, a fifth straight day after so-called superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast. The extended outages appeared to be primarily in the city’s poorest neighborhoods, according to the newspaper.
In Connecticut, which had 374,000 customers left in the dark after the storm, the first priority for utility companies was to clear safety hazards, such as fallen trees and downed power lines, while conducting damage assessment and working to restore power to hospitals and police and fire stations.
Sandy struck states from North Carolina to Maine on Monday and Tuesday, leaving an estimated 8.2 million customers without power across 20 states.
Devastation from the storm doubled — possibly even tripled — that caused by Irene, which hit the East Coast in August 2011 as a powerful tropical storm, knocking out power to 8.4 million customers in 13 states.
While tensions mounted over the outages, utility companies appeared better equipped at restoring to the mass power outages when compared to Irene.