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Blackout on one of the biggest shopping days of the year

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Island wide power outage: Jennifer Bautista improvises to make tea at Brew on Hamilton’s Front Street (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Island wide power outage: Brew soldiers on (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Island wide power outage: Washington Mall (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Island wide power outage: Front Street (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Island wide power outage (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Dennis Pimentel, the president of Belco (File photograph)
Wayne Caines, the president of Ascendant (File photograph)

A power cut that hit the island yesterday was an “anomaly”, the president of Belco’s parent company insisted.

Wayne Caines said staff continued to investigate the cause of the outage, but a recurrence was not expected.

Most customers had power restored by last night.

Parts of Warwick, Paget and St George’s were among the last to get electricity back.

Mr Caines said that power supply was “something that we’ve been doing for 114 years”.

He added: “If you look at the history of the organisation, the organisation has not had an island-wide outage in 15 years.

“We are confident in our systems, we are confident in our employees and we believe that we will have operations as normal.

“We would like to thank the Bermudian public for understanding that this was an anomaly and that we’re treating it as such.”

Dennis Pimentel, the Belco president, said: “We’re going to carry out a full investigation, a root cause analysis.

“We’ll be reporting that to our regulator in due course and that’s all we can say at this point in time.”

An update on the Belco website said: “A fault in the plant at approximately 10:20am caused an outage that affected all customers across the island.

“Belco’s crisis management team was immediately convened and work started to diagnose and fix the fault and restore power in the first instance to critical customers.

“Although an investigation into the cause of the fault is ongoing, it is important to note that there were no fires or mechanical breakdowns that led to the outage.

“In addition, all Belco staff are safe and there were no injuries reported.”

The statement added: “Once the cause of the outage has been ascertained, a report will be submitted to the Regulatory Authority.

“As of 5pm, power has been restored to the majority of customers – however restoration work is still continuing in the areas of Camp Hill, St George’s and Ess Hill.

“There may be some additional small, localised areas without power and if a customer remains without power they should call the Belco outage reporting line on 955.”

Mr Pimentel added: “First and foremost I would like to apologise to our customers for the inconvenience caused by today’s outage.

“I would also like to thank our staff who worked quickly and safely to ensure the generating equipment was safe and then set about restoring power as quickly as possible.

“Let me thank our customers for their patience and wish them a safe and happy holiday.”

He said earlier: “The beauty for me is that there was not a fire, there was … no mechanical damage, no critical infrastructure damage.

“We did not have a negative environmental impact event.

“Everyone is safe, all of our employees, and they’re all working with us today.

“We’re pleased that this was – to a certain extent, other than the outage – it was a bit of a non-event in terms of any critical damage.”

Groups of people gathered outside workplaces and shops in Hamilton after the power cut hit.

A Bermuda Hospitals Board spokeswoman said that the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital had technical problems when the outage started, but they were resolved quickly and did not affect patient care.

Generators kicked in to keep the building lit.

Belco treated the hospital as a priority and mains power was restored before 1pm.

A Bermuda Police Service spokesman said that officers were on patrol and “positioned to assist at major intersections” after traffic lights shut down.

Commissioner of Police Stephen Corbishley said that his team was in regular contact with Renee Ming, the Minister of National Security, and had “kept her abreast of events”.

He added: “We have assured her that we have not been significantly impacted by today’s island wide power outage.”

Mr Corbishley highlighted that officers were “mobilised to address any eventuality” that could result from the loss of power.

A spokesman for the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service said that the organisation was “running as normal”.

He added: “Our generator kicked in as soon as it happened.”

The spokesman said that crews attended at least one pole fire as well as some automatic fire alarms that went off during the disruption.

The emergency broadcast station ran from 12.30pm to help keep members of the public informed.

Ms Ming said that the disaster risk reduction mitigation team monitored the situation.

She added: "I have also been in contact with our key stakeholders such as the airport, the Bermuda Police Service, the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service and the Bermuda Hospitals Board and have been assured that their emergency services are operational.“

An electrical fire at Belco caused an island-wide power outage in July 2005.

The company said at the time that a “catastrophic failure” on one of the plant’s five switchboards sparked the blaze.

It took fire crews about eight hours to put out the flames, which reached a height of 60ft.

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Published December 18, 2020 at 7:43 pm (Updated December 19, 2020 at 8:48 am)

Blackout on one of the biggest shopping days of the year

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