‘Please help us’

As she laid on a twin bed in a dark, musty room, Clotilida Gibson-Johnson, 66, a bed-ridden resident at Unity House, begged the government to address recent load shedding exercises throughout New Providence.

“Please help us,” Gibson-Johnson told The Nassau Guardian.

“We cannot go through the heat any longer.”

She added, “When the power goes off, I feel fatigued and all that.”

Her cramped room, which holds six other beds, is poorly ventilated.

There is no fan and no air conditioning.

But Gibson-Johnson is not alone.

She is only one of 26 residents who has to endure hours-long power outages at the assisted senior citizens living facility.

Charles Minns, 72, another resident of the senior citizens home, sat on a bench in a shaded courtyard.

He said the outages have been happening “for as long as I can remember”.

However, Minns said it seems as though the outages have worsened.

“It happens two or three times a day,” Minns said.

“I feel a bit warm, you know, but I got used to it.”

Minns said he wishes the government would find a way to address the issue.

Since May, residents in New Providence have suffered through hours of constant load shedding exercises as Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) attempts to meet the high demand for electricity.

Esther Outten, a supervisor at Unity House, said, “Sometimes, it [goes out] twice a day. Sometimes it goes longer. Sometimes [it] is last like two hours or so. Some is last from 12 p.m. ‘til after I leave here at 6 p.m., then it goes off at night.”

She said two of the facility’s refrigerators have been damaged as a result of the power cuts.

“We have insulin inside the fridge,” Outten said.

“You know how much [it] is…to get insulin, those little small bottles? It’s like almost $50 and they get spoiled because when they get hot you can’t use them anymore.”

She added, “These are old people here. They have no place to go. They just sit there in the heat. I know I sweat like nothing so imagine them. But we try our best to make them as comfortable as possible because they still have to endure it.”

Outten said she fears that the power outages may lead to electrical shortages which may result in a fire.

“The socket thing where you push in the plug, that gone out,” she said.

Outten added, “Suppose a fire break out in here? Those bed-ridden patients, you know what it is to struggle and try to get them out in time in the case of a fire? It’s hard to get some of [them] out here who [are] walking, and then you have five in wheelchairs… I pray to God nothing ever happens like that.”

On Sunday, BPL Chief Executive Officer Whitney Heastie said he could not guarantee an end to load shedding exercises in the immediate future, describing BPL as being “on a cliff”.

Heastie said BPL needs 250 megawatts of generation in order to meet the summer demand.

However, it is currently running on 210 megawatts, including 105 megawatts of rental generation.

Heastie said the 40-megawatt shortfall has led to load shedding across New Providence.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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