Wednesday, February 21, 2018

T&TEC had to work 'magic'


'EXCELLENT RESPONSE': T&TEC area managers Ganesh Narine, left, and Richard Kissoon chat during a break at yesterday's sitting of the Commission of Enquiry into the 1990 attempted coup at the Caribbean Court of Justice, Henry Street, Port of Spain. —Photo: ANISTO ALVES

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T&TEC (Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission) is much better poised to deal with disasters or events of strife such as the 1990 coup attempt.

The Commission has formulated disaster plans which are reviewed annually and which have been tested.

This is according to two area managers who were key players in the response team in 1990.

Both Ganesh Narine, area manager for the Central Division, and Richard Kissoon, area manager for North Division, explained that because of advances in technology, better systems and better capabilities, the organisation was better prepared to deal with any major event.

By today's standard, T&TEC tries to restore power within two hours after an outage, Kissoon stated.

Giving evidence at the Commission of Enquiry into the 1990 coup attempt yesterday, both men said the employees of the electricity company came out during the days of the crisis.

Kissoon said the response of T&TEC was "excellent".

"In situations like this, most people would be fearful. I was impressed that many workers came forward and took the risk so that the Commission could keep supply to as many of its customers as possible," Kissoon said.

He said crewmen came out to work although it was not their shift and many workers showed a dedication beyond the normal call of duty. Kissoon described how he himself had to "leopard crawl" on Sweet Briar Road, St Clair to get to an air break switch to restore power to the area. He was escorted by a Defence Force soldier, he said.

Narine said by Saturday July 28, the day after the start of the coup attempt, fires were reported on Queen Street, Henry St, Chacon St, Charlotte St, Frederick St, Independence Square and surrounding areas in Port of Spain.

T&TEC had to de-energise (take power away) from several areas in Port of Spain and environs to prevent fires from causing further damage to property, injury or loss of life (via electrocution).

He said the de-energisation had to be done via remote control switch because it was difficult to get to locations affected by the conflict and cross fire. He said this de-energising policy meant the Commission had to therefore isolate larger areas, depriving them of electricity. He said, for example, the Laventille sub-station was de-energised during this period and this affected the entire Laventille and Sea Lots areas.

Narine said electricity was restored to Port of Spain five days after the surrender of the insurgents. However, it was technically termed a temporary solution.

He said the Commission had to redo its high voltage system and proper restoration of power came after three months.

However, Narine said the Commisson had no written reports of what happened during this period. He said a lot of the trouble reports were not documented.

"We just responded," he said.

He recalled that T&TEC had to work "magic" during the crisis to restore power to Port of Spain General Hospital, because none of the generators there was able to keep the hospital running for a long period.

In response to a question from lead Counsel for the Commission, Avory Sinanan, SC, Narine said he was not aware that T&TEC was ever told to be on standby to cut power to the Red House, where the insurgents were holding Prime Minister ANR Robinson and other MPs.

In previous testimony, the Commission of Enquiry had been told that the insurgents had lined up hostages to be shot in the event that the power was cut because they believed cutting of electrical power was the first phase in a plan by security forces to storm the chamber.