December 01, 2016
A "major underground cable fault" caused a complete meltdown of Bahamas Power and Light's (BPL) operations on Tuesday night, resulting in an island-wide blackout that impacted residents and businesses throughout much of yesterday.
New Providence was plunged into darkness after 10 p.m. on Tuesday.
Power was restored to some parts of the island yesterday morning, but many residents reported that they were without electricity until yesterday afternoon.
In a statement, BPL explained that the cable fault caused a "complete shutdown" of its generators, transmission and distribution networks on New Providence.
"To quickly restore power to customers, BPL has put in place temporary measures, but its efforts are strongly centered on locating the damaged underground cable and carrying out repairs immediately," the power company said at 3 p.m.
"BPL anticipates that once repairs are complete, its services should return to normal.
"In the meantime, due to the backup measures currently being utilized, BPL advises customers that they may experience intermittent challenges with their power supply until operations have statalized."
Pointing to its "system instability", BPL said it would attempt to provide advanced notice to customers about further disruptions.
A timeline for repairs and when the outages would desist was not provided.
The company apologized to its customers and assured them that it was "working to find immediate solutions to this problem and long term strategies to prevent a reoccurrence".
"BPL understands the frustration of its customers and is presently working on several solutions that will help improve reliability as soon as possible," BPL said.
Frequent and prolonged power outages have become commonplace, despite promises of relief from the government and BPL's management.
Students sent home
Stephen Dillet Primary School students had to be sent home because the enclosed building was in darkness up until 11:30 a.m.
Officials at the school said when they arrived before 8 a.m. there was no power.
As a result, hundreds of students and staff remained in the school's yard as they waited for power to be restored.
After more than two hours, the Ministry of Education advised that students were to be sent home.
"In the past, when our power has gone off, it is never for a long period of time," Vice Principal Mildred Pickstock told The Nassau Guardian.
"It's normally 40 minutes, and when power does go off, we have the emergency lights that remain on for a while when the children are here.
"So, this is a unique situation for us where we came to work and the power was off.
"In here was completely dark. We could not enter and students were not allowed to come in."
Although the school has an emergency system that provides power for up to 45 minutes, it does not have a generator. Its water pump is also dependent on power.
Pickstock said it was challenging to manage the needs of nearly 800 children, especially when the use of bathrooms was limited.
She also expressed grave concern about students missing school, noting that the recent hurricane has already impacted the academic year significantly.
"I have been here now for three years, and we have never had this experience," Pickstock said.
A parent picking up her son said it was disappointing that school had to be dismissed because the power company "cannot get it together".
While she did not wish to be named, she said she hopes BPL will compensate her for the inconvenience caused by the power outage between Tuesday night and yesterday morning and for the time it took her to "leave work and have to come here".
With customers scrutinizing what many have claimed are increased power bills despite prolonged outages in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, BPL has become a target of public resentment.
The company estimated October's bill, which is based on based on the lifetime average of the account.
BPL monthly bills reflect the amount owed for the previous month's consumption.
BPL said it took meter readings for November's bill and has insisted that its bills are accurate.
The power company provided several notices on its Facebook page on Tuesday night, prompting a series of criticisms.
"BPL has experienced a system shutdown on New Providence," the company said around 11:30 p.m.
"An initial assessment of what happened is already underway, and once it's possible to begin turning the power back on, teams are on standby."
The post was shared over 100 times and received over 150 comments and reactions.
Facebook user, Faith Taylor, said, "Stop overcharging us for this poor service.
"You [are] always having island-wide blackouts."
Quentin Hanna said BPL has been a disappointment to The Bahamas, and his "electrical wish for the new year is a new power company".
Tracy Stubbs posted, "What [expletive] is the problem? No thunder. No lightning. No rain. No hurricane. Nobody is burning all kind of air conditioning because it's cool. What is the reason?"
BPL said in a later post that its engines were being turned back on and power would be "gradually restored" to customers, with crews working throughout the night.
But up until yesterday afternoon there were still intermittent outages.
Royston Jones Jr., Guardian Staff Reporter
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