By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Restoring power to homes throughout the territory will take some time, BVI Electricity Corporation Distribution Foreman Carl Wallace said ahead of power being restored to part of Virgin Gorda in late Septermber.
“There has been a lot of damage, you really can’t count,” said Wallace who’s in charge of the lines sending power to Virgin Gorda. “We have to start from scratch all over. From Anegada to Virgin Gorda to Jost Van Dyke and Tortola. We have to start building lines back, running poles and bringing in extra help to help us get it done, so we have started distribution in different areas to get things done.”
In trying to get a feel of what’s happening on the ground, Wallace as asked about the challenges in trying to complete the work done as people traverse the roads as they’re pulling and joining wires. He said they try their best to get the work done.
“But, there are some unreasonable people,” he noted. “They’re cussing you like they are in a hurry. I spoke to the manager and the boss and they had police in different areas to direct the traffic so right now, things have eased off and our men are directing traffic. Sometimes, people want to ease through as if they are in a hurry to go, but, we’re getting there.”
It was the day before power was restored to Virgin Gorda, that Wallace said like Tortola, it will be done in phases.
“Not all of it, but part of it,” he said. “What we trying to do is get the water plants running because water is an issue, on Tortola, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke, so that’s why we’re pushing to get Virgin Gorda going. The guys there already built the lines to the water plant, so after we send power there, the people there will start to get water then work on the section so that people can get power to their homes.”
As the lines Wallace and his crew were working on passes through Long Look and East End communities on their way to Virgin Gorda, he was asked about restoration of power to homes that weren’t badly damaged. He said that will take a while because many transformers were damaged during Hurricane Irma and need to be ordered.
“Transformers are what send power to the houses,” Wallace explained. “Without the transformer, you can’t get power to your house. The next challenge is to make the connection to the houses. We had to cut a lot of lines so people could pass from their homes and over other houses. That takes a lot more time than pulling lines like we’re doing now.”
He added: “Pulling lines, you run them, tighten them up and you’re gone about your business. Houses will have to be inspected before you put power into some of them. You can’t hook up a meter and send power to the house as someone could get electrocuted.”
BVIEC Deputy General Manager Henry Creque said the catastrophic destruction from Irma is a major undertaking for BVIEC.
“We’ve never seen anything like this and I don’t think anyone alive in the BVI or in the Caribbean has seen destruction like this,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is bringing in as much help as we can in terms of people and also trying to get materials in and that’s a big challenge as well. If we can get people in, get materials in on a timely basis, the quicker we can get things up and running.”
With so many storms causing destruction across the Caribbean including Dominica, Anguilla, St. Maarten/St. Martin, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the Turks and Caicos Islands, parts of the Bahamas, Houston and Florida, Creque said the biggest challenge is that everyone facing devastation, needs the same materials to build back their systems.
“It’s hard to get big orders to go through, especially from the USA when they have other priority areas within their country for the same materials,” he noted. “We all need the same materials and it’s hard to get things on time as they will be spread out across all the countries and territories.”
Creque noted that there has been an upsurge in persons and businesses purchasing generators since Irma.
“If you’re going to connect it to your building, make sure it’s done by a licensed electrician and approved by the the Electrical Inspector’s Office and the Ministry of Communications and Works,” he advised. “If it’s done improperly, it can feed back into the lines and it can injure or kill a person. Usually, our employees are the ones at risk with that, but the fact that there are lines on the ground, you can energize a line on the ground and anyone, anyone can come and touch a line on the ground and be electrocuted.”
Creque added: “We want people to stay away from lines on the ground and for those who have generators, only plug things into a power strip and do not connect it to your house, unless it is approved by the Ministry of Communications and Works.”