T&TEC investigates islandwide outage: TRINIDAD IN THE DARK

NO POWER: Traffic lights in front of City Gate were not working during the nationwide blackout causing pedestrians to maneuver between vehicles on South Quay in Port of Spain on Wednesday. PHOTO BY JEFF MAYERS -
NO POWER: Traffic lights in front of City Gate were not working during the nationwide blackout causing pedestrians to maneuver between vehicles on South Quay in Port of Spain on Wednesday. PHOTO BY JEFF MAYERS -

NEWSDAY STAFF

ALL OF Trinidad was without power for more than six hours on Wednesday afternoon.

The sudden loss of power caught the entire island unawares and led to businesses closing early, schools ending early and rumours throughout Trinidad as to the real reason behind the outage. Tobago was however unaffected.

Addressing the issue on CNC3's 7 pm newscast, TTEC’s general manager Kelvin Ramsook said a fault developed in one of the major circuits which triggered their independent stations to shut down, causing the islandwide blackout.

“Today at 12.52 pm a fault developed on our system one of our major circuits called the Union Gandhi 220 KV circuit.

"As a result of a fault developing our computerised system was able to detect the location and we dispatched our personnel on the site to determine what the cause was,” Ramsook said.

He added that the matter was still being investigated and a report will be completed and submitted to Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales.

Ramsook estimated that full power would have been restored by at least midnight. He said the fault identified forced the generators at Trinidad Generation Unlimited (TGU) to shut down.

Ramsook said while the system was cleared at about 1.30 pm, the issue that was still outstanding then was getting the generation capacity back on to the grid.

“We are now in what you call an island mode and in that we have never had this situation occurring for many years.

"And what we have is all four generating stations, separated and that we are having challenges in getting the capacity back onto the grid and the interconnection thereafter” he said identifying the outage as a travesty.

“Whatever is necessary to avoid a repeat of this situation, I know the minister has made it abundantly clear to me, the commission has to put the systems in place. This is unacceptable and therefore we will have to do what is necessary to ensure there is no repeat of the situation.”

Gonzales who was with Ramsook, apologised to the nation for the inconvenience. He said there must be a thorough report on the matter and steps must be taken to ensure there is no re-occurrence.

“What transpired today exposed certain vulnerabilities on the electrical grid. And I will be speaking with the Prime Minister and my colleagues in the cabinet so that we can undertake, working with T&TEC, a very comprehensive investigation and review of the electrical grid to ensure that we put the mitigating measures in place as quickly as possible to prevent re occurrence of this within the short to medium term.

"We will get another independent investigation to give us a report on what transpired on what are some of the other things we can put in place to ensure that we don't get back in this situation anytime soon.”

WIDESPREAD IMPACT

As a result of the nationwide blackout, commuters had to endure standstill traffic while citizens experienced low water pressure to dry taps in some cases along with glitching mobile data.

At about 1 pm, several areas throughout the country were without electricity owing to what TTEC described as a “major disturbance.”

At the time they gave no cause for the disturbance however in subsequent updates said they had to restart their generators.

At 6.30 pm TTEC gave an update saying that they received reports that electricity returned to some parts of Trinidad mainly customers in Gandhi Village, Penal and parts of Central Trinidad.

By 8 pm there were reports that electricity returned to parts of South Trinidad.

“The process of restarting the generators requires time and is very gradual. Unfortunately, in this instance the process is taking longer than anticipated and it will be a few more hours before all customers are back on supply.

"We acknowledge the distress this is causing and we are working closely with the independent power producers to complete the process,” the update stated.

Schools in Trinidad were dismissed early and many workplaces also sent home their employees. In Port of Spain, stores such as Sacha Cosmetics, Payless, Wonderful World, and other stores on Frederick Street closed immediately.

Miguel Moses, ABC Enterprises, and Courts, waited to see how long it would take for power to return finally giving up at about 3 pm.

Those with generators, such as UA Enterprises, Tech Access in Aboutique Mall, KFC Independence Square and Jimmy Aboud remained open, with a slow trickle of customers in most stores.

Managers and owners of these stores said they would remain open until the generators failed or until remaining open became a security risk.

Traffic on the south bound Grand bazaar ramp during the nationwide blackout on Wednesday. PHOTO BY JEFF MAYERS - Jeff

Addressing concerns of safety, acting Commissioner of Police Mc Donald Jacob said the police have an emergency plan which “kicked in” to ensure safety throughout the nation.

At 6 pm, he said while he hoped electricity returned soon, he had no reports of any major accidents and or incidents. Jacob said police officers were at various intersections directing traffic to ensure driver reached their destination safely.

Head of the Western Division Snr Supt Kelvern Thompson denied social media reports that criminals were targeting motorists stuck in traffic heading into Diego Martin and surrounding areas.

While police were out and about ensuring that citizens remained safe, street vendors in the capital continued business as usual with customers stopping to purchase as they made their way home.

Schoolchildren began to trickle out of the capital at about 2 pm. At City Gate, lines for the PTSC route to Arima and Chaguanas had begun to build around the same time as schools children were seen making their way home.

RUMOURS ABOUND

Speculation and rumour ran rife concerning the cause of the power outage. Some people said it was sabotage by TTEC workers as part of a protest against the government's mandate for public service workers.

Another theory was that the trade unions were involved, for the same reason. Others compared it to the 2012 outage which left large parts of the island without power.

Last December TTEC said that a problem had arisen at an unnamed power plant and said "various locations" were affected. No reason was given for that outage, which was rectified within hours.

The Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) was also affected by the blackout telling customers that its water production facilities were affected by the outage.

In a media release, it said, “Please be advised that the nationwide power outage has affected our water production facilities. As power is restored our facilities would be restarted and restored to all affected areas.”

The National Library and Information System (NALIS) also announced the closure of all public libraries and offices on Wednesday afternoon as they anticipate that normal services will resume on Thursday.

The Judiciary also issued a release saying it was aware of the blackout, which “affected our ability to provide online services.

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"T&TEC investigates islandwide outage: TRINIDAD IN THE DARK"

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