By FARRAH JOHNSON
RESIDENTS and tourists in Harbour Island over the Christmas break on Friday criticised Bahamas Power and Light for the lack of communication regarding the recent power outages they say have ruined their holiday.
On Wednesday, BPL reported that cable and generation issues caused the island to have partial power for 48 hours forcing them to institute load shedding exercises throughout the island.
BPL then released another statement Thursday night assuring the public that power had been restored to the island and issues causing the outages were addressed.
Still, those present for the load shedding told The Tribune the lack of updates from the electricity company made the situation much more frustrating to endure.
Shandesha Charlton, a university student visiting family for the holidays, told The Tribune that although the island lost power after 6pm on Monday night, residents were not “officially notified” of any mechanical defects until two days later on Christmas night.
“It was just a dark Christmas,” she said. “If you look at BPL’s official Facebook page, you’ll see that they gave one update and that was 48 hours later. It’s sad that they knew what was going on and sent help days later.”
Ms Charlton added that the lack of updates on the power spoiled the holiday for many residents and business owners alike.
“The whole island was in darkness besides the places that had generator upwards to 7o’clock last night. There wasn’t any partial outages. Before last night the electricity came on a few times but stayed on no longer than 5-10 minutes.”
“I’ve spent Christmas on the island before. This one was different (because) no Christmas lights were able to turn on and foods ended up spoiling.”
Insisting that the blackouts were a “terrible experience”, Ms Charlton also said she worried if tourists on the island would be put off by the incident, since the island is a popular destination for many international visitors.
Alexa Poteet, an American tourist visiting Harbour Island with relatives, also told this newspaper that there was not much communication between BPL and the people on the island.
Mrs Poteet, who was staying at the Tingum Village Hotel at the time of the outages, said they were not notified about any generation issues at all.
“The power just went out on the evening of the 23rd,” she said. “Power was out completely save about 20 minutes on the 24th of December until last night in my part of the island when it came on about 8pm.”
She added that while electricity had been restored where she was staying, other parts of the island were completely offline straight up to Christmas.
Speaking about her experience during the blackouts, she added: “We have been taking cold showers for the three plus days of the outage and charging our phones in case of emergency at a local marina with a backup generator in the mornings.
“While a cold shower is no big deal for my husband or me, we are travelling with our two babies who are three and one and get very cold.”
Mrs Poteet said she also believes “rolling blackouts are ongoing,” because she has a friend in another part of the island who had no power on Christmas night and had seen many stores without power on Boxing Day.
“I cannot speak to whether this is typical, but I feel for the local residents and children whose Christmas meal was likely spoiled by the lack of electricity and refrigeration and (had their) holiday celebrations ruined. Not everyone has the access vacationers might to a backup generator.”
Sammeka Toussaint, another Bahamian resident visiting family for the holidays, said she was at her parents' residence during the power outages.
“Initially, I thought it may have been load shedding and would only last about three hours but as it got late in the evening and then beyond midnight, I realised it was a problem.”
Mrs Toussaint said updates on the blackouts only came from locals who believed that an underwater cable from the mainland of Eleuthera was broken.
She said they were told that the generators at the BPL substation were down as well.
“The outages lasted from Monday until Christmas night at 9:30pm when the island was partially restored with electricity.”
“While electricity has been restored to most of the residents on Harbour Island, there are still others presently experiencing sporadic power outages. I have been informed that the island has experienced power outages in the past but this experience has been the worst ever.”
According to BPL’s statement, two unrelated incidents involving cable failures and the breakdown of the on-island rental generation caused the power cuts on Harbour Island over the Christmas holiday.
While the company reported that the rental generators have been replaced, they said the cause of the cable failures is still being investigated.