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‘Mental fatigue’ hampering BPL rebuild on Abaco

Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister said yesterday that Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) is doing all it can to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season, but noted that restoration of power on Abaco is taking longer due to mental fatigue among employees.

Parts of Abaco have been without electricity since September when Hurricane Dorian levelled parts of the island. While there were promises of a complete restoration of power on the island by March, many residents are still waiting.

Bannister noted that while many areas of North and South Abaco have been restored, Marsh Harbour and some of the cays have been a challenge.

“Abaco has been a challenge,” he said.

“And I’ll tell you why. We have had any number of workers go from New Providence to Abaco. And after a while, many of them have had mental fatigue. And so, we’ve 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. We have been actively trying to bring in another crew from another country. That is going to mean that if we bring them in, we are going to have to quarantine them here.

“So BPL has been actively looking at that. It is by no means certain, but is something that has to happen. Because when you talk about the qualifications for linesmen and that they have to have at least eight years of experience before you can put them out there to have our lives in their hands, BPL has to be very careful.

“And we also have to be careful about the Bahamians who are working there. When you go in the hurricane zone, you leave New Providence and you go and work in those conditions, which are very uncomfortable conditions.

“…It’s only fair for them to be able to come out every now and again. So, BPL has been looking after the mental health of its workers also.”

On New Providence, Bannister said steps have been taken to ensure the power company’s new Wartsila plant remains up and running, especially given the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We expect that all of those Wartsila engines are going to be working properly,” he said.

“We also brought in a spare crew for Wartsila. So, with coronavirus going on now, if any of the people down there at Clifton end up getting coronavirus, we have a crew that will come in to do the work. So BPL is actively planning for the hurricane season. They are well ahead in their plans.”

Bannister said crews are trimming trees and securing lines, but took issue with the number of overgrown yards that are encountered.

“BPL is actively going about cutting trees,” he said.

“For example, if you go into Farrington Road and all these areas that residents have allowed to overgrow in their yards, you will see that a lot of huge trees are now gone. But quite frankly, too many people have been irresponsible with their yards. Too many yards are overgrown in this country.

“And that’s something that we have to begin to look at, because we cannot expect BPL to continue to maintain our yards.

“So, BPL is doing the best that they can. All throughout New Providence now you will see that they have been securing lines in a number of areas to ensure that they have the appropriate conditions for overhead lines.”

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Rachel Knowles

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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