LAE, PNG SUFFERS TOTAL BLACKOUT

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Fire at substation lead to hours long outage

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Oct. 29, 2009) - The entire city of Lae suffered total blackouts for lengthy periods over the past two days, caused by a fire at a PNG Power substation at Taraka.

The power failures started at 11 p.m. on Monday and ended at 5:30 a.m. yesterday, before another blackout from 11 a.m. until after 3 p.m.

Office workers from Malahang to Milfordhaven complained bitterly about PNG Power.

The electricity supplier informed residents about the blackouts through radio messages, saying that technicians were working to fix the Taraka substation, which supplies power to Lae city from the Ramu Hydro power station at Yonki.

However, many residents without access to radios were left in the dark as to the cause of the blackouts and when power would be restored.

Morobe Governor Luther Wenge, a fierce critic of PNG Power, was forced to switch his press conference on the Supreme Court reference seeking to reinstate LLG presidents in provincial assemblies, to the Melanesian Hotel.

Most companies, Government offices, schools, health facilities and residences from Taraka to Two-Mile and Milfordhaven to Malahang were left in the dark.

Businesses had to resort to generators, with one company at Voco Point running its set for 13 straight hours.

Establishments that had generators managed to continue working in the face of severely low water pressure.

The PNG Waterboard generators "are not designed for continuous operation and cannot keep up with the frequency of power outages in Lae," executive manager of operations at PNG Waterboard, Raka Taviri, had said in a statement last week when Lae suffered a long weekend of irregular power supply.

"The frequent power outages are taking a toll on the effectiveness of PNG Waterboard’s ability to ensure a reliable supply of water to Lae."

The Waterboard needs power to pump water from the underground wells at Taraka to the city but the problems are compounded by illegal connections and leakages.

The water problem yesterday forced most schools to knock off after lunch.

Primary schools had to close because there was no water.

In schools where there was water, the pressure was low, affecting ablution blocks and exacerbating fears of cholera and dysentery.

Health facilities could not dispense medicines that need to be refrigerated.

The lack of water supplies to their ablution blocks also posed health hazards.

One of the worst-hit areas was Ampo.

The Evangelical Lutheran church headquarters suffered severely as nearly 100 households did not have power and water for the whole day.

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