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'Impossible To Restore Power To Abaco Before 2020 Hurricane Season'

The destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian is seen from the air, in Marsh Harbour, Abaco in September, 2019.
(AP Photo/Gonzalo Gaudenzi)

The destruction caused by Hurricane Dorian is seen from the air, in Marsh Harbour, Abaco in September, 2019. (AP Photo/Gonzalo Gaudenzi)

By LEANDRA ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

lrolle@tribunemedia.net

WORKS Minister Desmond Bannister said it’s “impossible” for electricity to be fully restored on Abaco before the start of the 2020 hurricane season, adding the level of destruction left by Hurricane Dorian has created several challenges for officials.

He said officials are considering bringing in foreign work teams to assist with the power restoration, who would be quarantined on arrival.

Speaking ahead of a Cabinet meeting yesterday morning, the minister told reporters: “I think anybody who has seen the ravages in Abaco will understand that that’s impossible.

“Remember now, all those buildings were destroyed and so first of all, people have to get their insurance pay outs and then they have to get plans and rebuild and then they have to have inspection by the Ministry of Works and inspections by BPL before their homes can even be connected.

“So, what BPL has done is put in a number of solar lighting systems in the Marsh Harbour area but Marsh Harbour is, if you see the utter devastation that we had there, it’s going to take quite a while before you can see total restoration and that’s being realistic and it’s important for us to appreciate what people have been through.”

His comments come amid public concern about the island’s readiness for the upcoming hurricane season, which is less than a month away.

The island was left devastated following Hurricane Dorian in early September after the storm flattened homes, businesses and obliterated infrastructure, destroying a number of power lines in the community.

Since then, Bahamas Power and Light has carried out a number of operations to restore electricity on Abaco.

Officials have previously said that power would be fully restored to the island by the end of March.

However, yesterday, the Carmichael MP could not give a definite timeline for when the storm impacted island will be fully electrified, telling reporters “it’s going to take quite a while before you can see total restoration.”

While noting that power has been restored to several areas on the island, Mr Bannister admitted that the Marsh Harbour community, the island’s central hub, and its surrounding cays have been posing several challenges for BPL workers.

“Much of North Abaco, South Abaco is powered up,” he said.

“The Marsh Harbour areas are challenged as are a few of the cays. Those cays weren’t underground utilities and that by nature is going to take a little while longer.”

In light of these challenges, he added officials also had to be sensitive to the needs of its workers as the catastrophic situation in Abaco has taken a mental toll on some employees.

He said: “We’ve had many numbers of workers from New Providence go to Abaco and after a while, many (of them) have had mental fatigue and so we have had to bring them back to New Providence and send other crews in.

“The CARILEC (Caribbean Electric Utility Services Corporation) workers who were here had to return to their homes and we’ve been actively trying to bring in another crew from another country and that is going to mean that if we bring them in, we’re going to quarantine them here and get them to do some of the things that they need to quarantine first.”

He continued: “So, BPL has been actively looking at that. That is by no means certain, but that is something that has to happen because when you talk about the qualifications for linesmen and the linesmen has to have at least eight years of experience before you could put them out there.

“So, BPL has to be very, very careful.”

Meanwhile, as it relates to BPL’s hurricane preparedness for New Providence, the minister said the power provider has been actively preparing for the upcoming storm season, adding that officials are “well-ahead” in their plans.

“BPL is, if you go into a number of areas in New Providence, you will see that BPL is actively going about cutting trees,” he said.

“…There are too many yards overgrown around this country and that’s something we have to begin to look at because we can’t expect BPL to continue to maintain our yards. I see huge trees coming out of people’s yards that many are not taking care of.”

He added: “So, BPL is doing the best that they can and if you go all throughout New Providence and you’ll see that they have been cutting trees and that they’ve been securing lines in a number of areas to ensure that they have the appropriate conditions for overhead lines.

“And they’re also finished with their well drilling for the new Wartsila engines, so we expect all of those Wartsila engines to be working properly. Any challenges we have now, we’ve also brought in a spare crew for Wartsila.”

Asked by reporters whether the government had any plans to cut staff in his ministry due to economic uncertainty amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the minister replied that he was not aware of any such plans.

“Unless I hear that from the prime minister, that is not within my contemplation and people in my ministry are actively working,” he noted.

“. . .We cannot afford not to keep those architects, engineers and those people who make us safe employed and we cannot afford not to. In many of the cases (what) they do is life and death.”

Comments

moncurcool 4 months, 2 weeks ago

This is not news. The people doing the restoration of the power on the ground were saying that it would have been September 2020.

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ISpeakFacts 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Of course its impossible, they can't even bury the 70+ bodies stored in a trailer behind the Marsh Harbor clinic and its been over 8 months, they can't even restore Grand Bahama's hospital and its been over 8 months, why would anybody expect power to be back on anytime soon LMAO

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themessenger 4 months, 2 weeks ago

That was a very short sojourn, never expected to see you back quite so soon, LMAO

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moncurcool 4 months, 2 weeks ago

If you speaks facts remember that the Grand Bahama Port Authority is ultimately responsible for the hospital.

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ThisIsOurs 4 months, 2 weeks ago

no foreign team can come in before every single Bahamian stranded abroad is brought home.

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lovingbahamas 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Let’s just keep kicking the can down the road. 8 1/2 months after Dorian and BPL is just now coming to the conclusion they might need more help??!? And, then the old song and dance about “well, the homes aren’t built so they really don’t need power”. What about the boast everything would be powered up by March-back in January? Is it any surprise that no one believes anything that is said out of any government official’s mouth. If I worked for BPL I would be so ashamed I would quit. Of course, where else could I get a job and do mediocre work and still get paid?

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moncurcool 4 months, 2 weeks ago

BPL persons would tell you that they never gave a March date for all to be powered up as they knew that was not possible. Most people are not aware that the entire electrical grid in central was destroyed, Yo don't rebuild that back overnight and that cost money. Amazing how something that took years to put in place we expect back in 2 days and money already not there.

I don't work for BPL, but I'm an engineer and saw what went down over there.

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DWW 4 months, 2 weeks ago

it is a management and money issue pure and simple. and i'd bet the union resisted foreign aid.

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lovingbahamas 4 months, 2 weeks ago

I was at a town hall meeting at a church near Treasure Cay where the head of reconstruction ran the meeting. In no uncertain terms, she assured everyone at that meeting that Treasure Cay would be fully powered up by the end of March. Now, as someone else mentioned, they had a grand total of 2 lift trucks and 6 personnel there that I saw. When I asked they BPL guys would it be done by March, they just laughed. All of Abaco would be a big task. Treasure Cay isn't. But, it goes to my point that the government personnel spout out things that just aren't true. Then, why should we believe them about anything else. And, I haven't seen one correction by anyone at BPL or Reconstruction that targets a different date. If this was a private company with this communication they would be out of business.

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ThisIsOurs 4 months, 2 weeks ago

I think what people looking for is a plan. The plan says what happens when by whom and at what cost. They could have told us 2 years and ticked off completed deliverables every quarter. But the announcement out of the blue moon makes it seem like they just realized hurricane season coming and we won't be ready..whether that's true or not

They established the delivery unit but it's literally like they havent done a single plan in 3 years (or tracked a plan). Just reacting.

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geostorm 4 months, 2 weeks ago

@moncurcool, sadly many Bahamians believe that they are experts on subjects that they have no clue about. Glad that you have brought some reality to this conversation.

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Bonefishpete 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Look on the Brightside, the people of Abaco are well versed in generator operation.

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avidreader 4 months, 2 weeks ago

So much simpler and honest to state that homes that are badly damaged and basically uninhabitable cannot and will not be reconnected. If you have seen the damage you will recognise that many buildings are too far gone to even be considered for reconnection. BPL has been agonisingly slow in their work in central Abaco, that much is obvious, but the unpleasant truth is that Marsh Harbour has suffered a terrible blow from which there is no quick recovery possible. Perhaps BPL management believes that too much honesty will only add to the sense of despair.

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sandyfeet 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Wow, Nassau people jump on FB and complain when their power is off for 1 hour, I can not imagine how they would react if they were in Abaco, living with no power for almost 9 Months! If the help that was offered by power companies around the world right after the storm, was accepted, we might have power now. The government is arrogant and assumes we are all stupid to not see the incompetence regarding the power in Abaco. Well actually the entire situation in Abaco post Dorian. You would think that since Abaco is a cash cow for the treasury of the Bahamas, they would get their act in gear and do something, anything, to get the islands up and running again. And by the way, none of the Cays have power.

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Hoda 4 months, 2 weeks ago

..its a little annoying this line about how Abaco is a cash cow, Abaco is not the only place that pays taxes and contributes to the treasury. Furthermore, some white abaconians seem to borde on racist or at the very least entitled. Just let your second home owners rebuild Abaco then.

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Dawes 4 months, 2 weeks ago

How is Abaco A cash cow compared to Nassau. If Abaco is such a cash cow then let them pay real property like those in Nassau do.

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TalRussell 4 months, 2 weeks ago

I've been told that several the passengers who boarded both the Freeport and Nassau leg of the flights out of Miami had boarded the Mercy Flights COVID-19 were, in fact, approved applicants returning to the colony to take up residence the six Abaco Domes, left sitting empty awaiting for their return from abroad?
If so, will they be traveling on to Abaco?
Should be an easy, Nod once for yeah, Six for no, by the crown's housing and pavilion ministers?

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DDK 4 months, 2 weeks ago

It's impossible 'Minister' Bannister because you and your Government do not know how to prioritize and because you are grossly corrupt and inneficient. You finally dumped a bunch of poles along the highway a month or so ago and left them there to be consumed by seasonal forest fires. Meanwhile Cable Bahamas is digging trench along the same highway in preparation of the laying of THEIR cable. How in the name of God do you just justify your salary? Certainly not by spouting b.s. You have TWO bucket trucks I'm Abaco. Stop lying and resign. How do you and your broke Government propose to pay for foreign work teams??? What is wrong with your own work teams? You and BEC are worse than an entire ton of deplorables. Total restoration is a joke. You idiots have not even scratched the surface. Stop blabbering and resign.

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ThisIsOurs 4 months, 2 weeks ago

something is seriously wrong. Alot of project management is common sense. I know they have sensible people in these ministries I've interacted with some of them. Something is wrong. Something is getting in the way of taking sensible organized planned out action.

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DDK 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Correction: two bucket trucks IN Abaco.

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lovingbahamas 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Geeeee, the Minster of works said the crews suffered “mental fatigue” after working in Marsh Harbour for a while. What does he think all of us in Abaco have been suffering with for 8 1/2 months? Now it’s starting to get warmer. No AC. They keep saying houses can’t be hooked up. Well, they put temporary meters in for building sites. Running a couple of extensions for a small frig or a portable AC would go a long way towards helping me with my “mental fatigue” instead of making constant runs to gas stations. Problem is I can’t leave Abaco after a couple of weeks and live in a house in Nassau with power(unless there are more blackouts) because of my “mental fatigue”. Come on, this isn’t rocket science. Is BPL so poorly managed that in quiet times there are no extra crews to send. God forbid the next hurricane!!

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Dawes 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Its taken almost 9 months for you to realize this? Why did you not say so at the start?. Why did you not get outside help, or explain why the cost constraints meant that you couldn't. Why does this country always have useless ministers of works?

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