As the island was slowly coming to life on Thursday morning following the passage of Tropical Storm Matthew, hundreds of people were already on the ball, braving the elements to return the island to normalcy.
Employees from St. Lucia Electricity Services Limited (LUCELEC), the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) and the Castries Constituency Council (CCC) among others certainly served the nation honourably with speed and efficiency to rectify the havoc caused by the storm.
From 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, reports were starting to flood in over the television and radio airwaves, as well as via social media, of power and water outages, and within the following few hours, a vast number of communities around the island were left with no electricity or running water.
However, the utility companies, as well as the workers of the CCC, set off to remedy the situation from the wee hours of Thursday morning and their efforts were evident as most services were up and running by the end of the day.
Also, with the exception of a few leaves, the city of Castries, as well as a number of other communities around the island, looked fairly untouched and unscathed by the volatile weather system. This was a stark contrast of the state of these areas before the clean-ups.
LUCELEC’s Corporate Communications Manager, Roger Joseph, did his best to keep the nation informed of the company’s progress and showed zeal by being amongst the workers on the field as the day passed.
Joseph said that as a result of trees and branches falling onto power lines, fallen poles and mainly the flooding of the Union Sub-station, 70 percent of customers were left affected; however, by midday, approximately 75 percent of those customers had electricity.
Joseph added that even amidst challenges faced by the crews in efforts to get to Soufriere during the morning, the goal was set to restore 98 percent of the system by the end of the day, and by 3:00 p.m., they were well on their way with 85 percent of the electricity infrastructure being energized.
On Friday morning, an official press release was sent out by the company which read:
“As at 8:00 a.m. today approximately 99 percent of the electricity infrastructure has been energised, following the passage of Tropical Storm Matthew.
“A few small areas, some individual or small groups of customers remained without power last night (due to localized faults or the need for transformer replacements) when the LUCELEC crews finally knocked off about midnight after a very long day in the field. These areas include: some parts of Cap Estate, Bonne Terre, Bois d’Orange, Barnard Hill, Morne Fortune (near Sir Arthur Lewis Community College), Talvern, Marquis River, Aux Lyons, Vieux Sucreic (Sikwi), Piton Flore, and near the Sugar Beach Hotel in Soufriere.
“Much of the remaining work involves replacement of transformers, low voltage line repairs, repairing broken service lines (from the pole to the customer’s meter), and repairs to hanging or fallen meters. LUCELEC crews were already back in the field early this morning attending to these remaining issues. The transformer replacements, low voltage line repairs are being done first, and the service line and meter repair or replacement work will be done subsequently.
“Overall, the main electricity infrastructure held up fairly well during Tropical Storm Matthew. Apart from the Union Sub-station which suffered some minimal flooding, the Cul De Sac Power Station and the remaining sub-stations (Cul de Sac, Soufriere, Vieux Fort, Praslin, Castries, Reduit) all came through the weather system intact. The Union Substation was cleaned and fully reinstated into the electricity system by 7:55 p.m.
“Several parts of the island suffered power outages during the storm as a result of the loss of Union Substation, branches or trees falling on power lines or poles coming down. Based on system loading, approximately, 70 percent of customers would have been affected.
Power restoration work began early Thursday morning and by the end of the day 99 percent of the system had been reenergized. It is expected that all remaining works will be completed within the next 48 hours.
For WASCO’s part, Communications and Public Relations Manager, D’Anthony Charles, gave frequent updates via the different airways and like the electricity services, regular water services were restored to the majority of households by the end on the day.
Whilst the two utility companies were keeping the public informed about their efforts to restore normalcy, personnel of the CCC worked just as arduously, and they did so silently.
Whilst Castries and its environs looked like a war zone immediately after the storm, by midday on Thursday, the capital was clean and ready for the next business day.
The same applause is due for hundreds of residents all over the island who worked around the clock to clean up their respective communities.
In a show of solidarity and humanity, many formed groups to go out and pitch in to clear debris, fallen trees, mud, flood water and damaged furniture and appliances from the houses and pathways of those affected most by the storm.
No effort was spared to get the island up and running and in high spirits.
Throughout Thursday, amongst the hundreds of calls from individuals to the local television and radio stations to either let their loved ones know they were safe, request help, alert the utility companies of downed power lines or ruptured pipe lines as well as to report injuries or emergencies, many individuals called in to applaud and commend the utility companies for their valiant efforts and hard work.
Grateful callers were also asking irate and/or frustrated locals to practise patience as the men and women on the job were undoubtedly working assiduously to assist.
Undoubtedly, Thursday’s collective efforts contributed to a fresh start for the island as all systems were up and running and it was back to business as usual.