Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Blackened.

Brunei-Muara Belait And Tutong Districts Badly Affected
Kuala Belait - Power supply in the Brunei-Muara, Tutong and Belait Districts were disrupted yesterday evening around half past seven following a massive shutdown of the turbine generators at the Gadong Power Station.

According to the Department of Electrical Services (DES), the shutdown was due to what it termed as a `technical glitch', which caused the power cut that affected most of the capital, and large parts of the country stretching to Lamunin and Penanjong and into the Belait District with disruptions reported in Lumut and Mumong.

Power will be restored in stages beginning midnight, said DES officials.

Just hours after the nationwide prayers to mark the 16th Civil Service Day and amid growing calls for the public service to make good on their promises to provide for more efficient and effective services to the citizens and residents of Brunei Darussalam, the darkened canvas that blanketed the capital and most parts of the country stood as a shocking reminder.

The DES hotline switchboard began to light up after 7.30 in the evening and was soon inundated by complaints as hours went by with still no power.

Several complaints also came to the Borneo Bulletin's Hotline claiming that the DES hotline was switched off. A quick visit by the Bulletin to the hotline centre, however, proved otherwise as the number of people calling the centre also peaked. The four personnel manning the telephones were seen continuously answering the calls that were coming non-stop.

Other calls remain unanswered, as they also had to deal with other incoming emergency calls as well.

But staffs at the DES were unwilling to explain in further detail what exactly caused the 'technical glitch'. An official statement would be issued by the department today, the. Bulletin learnt.

For the commercial areas in Gadong, the long power disruption was a stark reminder of the pervious outage caused by the flash flooding in January this year. Having learnt from that outage, some businesses were prepared and utilised generators as backups.

The Mall, which is normally packed at night, was also swamped in darkness with just a few lights powered by the building's main generators.

Some restaurants, however, had to close down early as the blackout posed health hazards especially with the preparation of food.

Razali, a cook working in a restaurant in Gadong, explained that the manager decided to close down early as the restaurant's lighting was inadequate and that it was in the best interest of everyone's safety.

He, however, asked the most pertinent question of all last night. Why there were no backups in place especially considering the magnitude of the outage?
His views were also echoed by storeowner Hj Sulaiman.

"The authorities concerned should have learnt their lessons after January but apparently things haven't changed," he said.

Officials were unavailable to respond to the queries but sources, however, told the Bulletin that the Bukit Panggal Power station, still undergoing construction, is supposed to be the back up station should there be any load reduction in the grid.

The loss of power, however, did not dampen the spirits at most homes as many families were seen continuing with the ongoing Hari Raya celebrations. The visits continued as many homes resorted to using candles and emergency lights.

According to Dyg Salmah in Kg Mata-Mata, they thought that the power outage would be temporary or would only last a few minutes but then it passed the hour mark and everyone in the house started to worry.

Having experienced the previous long outage, Salmah was still hopeful that power would resume soon.

Another resident in the Gadong area who called the Bulletin hotline reacted angrily and said that it should have not happened during the festivities.

He told the Bulletin that the January blackout was already enough for many residents and businesses and that another one is 'totally inexcusable'.

"The last long outage happened in January. Now it's September and a back up should have already been in place to prepare for such eventualities," he added.

Power had slowly returned in stages beginning late last night, according to the DES, to the affected areas. (Borneo Bulletin).

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