Ja plunged into darkness

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Nearly a year to the day that the country was affected by an islandwide power outage that lasted for almost 10 hours, customers of the Jamaica Public Service Company Ltd., were again plunged into darkness yesterday, some for up to 12 hours.

The last islandwide outage occured on July 15, 2006. The power company said preliminary investigations suggest that yesterday’s island-wide blackout, which occurred shortly after 5am, was caused by a problem at its Old Harbour Power Station in St. Catherine.

Head of corporate communications at the JPS, Winsome Callum, said further information on the matter would be provided as soon as possible.

Up to last evening, some five per cent of customers were still without electricity, which the power company said would have been restored by the day’s end. Some communities were experiencing powercuts up to 8 o’clock last night.

Director of consumer and public affairs at the Office of Utilities Regulation, David Geddes, said his office was given a preliminary report regarding the blackout.

Mr. Geddes said the company is by law required to file a report to the organisation outlining the reasons behind the outage.

He also said that, based on the contents of the report, the organisation would decide if an investigation into the cause of the outage would be needed, and if there were any weaknesses in JPS’ system. The OUR expects a full report in two weeks.

Meanwhile, Jamaica Labour Party Spokesman on Energy, Clive Mullings, called on the JPS to provide a full explanation as to the reasons behind the blackout.

Mr. Mullings said the power outage severely affected commercial and residential users.

He added that there were numerous reports about commercial and residential equipment being damaged by the frequent and unannounced power outages over the last few weeks.

In addition, a press release from Cable and Wireless said: “Several of the company’s mobile cell sites were affected, as were some fixed-line telephone exchanges”.

The telecommunications company, however, said the majority of its customers were unaffected as the company’s back-up systems were automatically triggered.

Meanwhile, there were reports of a few schools being affected by the outage. Lola Graham, principal of the Loving Hands Kindergarten and Preparatory School in St. Thomas, said she had to send home students as the pump at the institution that supplies water to the 172 students is generated by electricity.

Despite the fact that power was restored to half of the island by mid-day, there was still evidence of the outage throughout the country when The Gleaner took to the streets of the Corporate Area.

Several traffic lights along the city’s streets were still without power and police personnel were seen regulating traffic.

Head of the Police Traffic Department, Senior Superintendent Ealan Powell told The Gleaner that a number of policemen were deployed to various intersections controlled by traffic lights, stretching the force’s human resources.

“Some police officers were even drawn from office duty,” SSP Powell said.

On July 15 last year, the entire island was plunged into darkness minutes after 3:00 p.m. until about 12:15 a.m.

The company later blamed the outage on a lighting strike to a steel tower at the Duncans/Bogue transmission link in Trelawny. JPS however did not face any sanctions despite a probe into the matter that was ordered by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller. A report on last year’s power outage, presented by a team of Canadian consultants, implied that the company was at fault for the all-island blackout.

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