Power restoration in typhoon-hit areas may take 2 months

Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Some areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda are still without electricity and restoration efforts could take up to two months before power is fully restored, officials said yesterday.

The Department of Energy said it could take two months to fully restore power in Tacloban, which is the area hardest hit by the monster storm.

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said 90 percent of power poles are down and washed away.

“This is really something that is beyond what I’ve seen so far,” he said.

The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) issued an advisory yesterday saying Bohol, Samar and Leyte still do not have electricity, with transmission lines and power facilities still down.

The substations in Panit-an and Nabas in Panay are also down, affecting the provinces of Capiz, Aklan and portions of Iloilo and Antique, NGCP said.

In its advisory, NGCP said it continues to monitor affected areas but could not yet determine how long restoration efforts could take.

“The NGCP continues to monitor and inspect transmission lines affected by Yolanda.”

It also said it has restored some transmission lines in Laguna, Batangas and Cebu.

At the same time, NGCP said it has not been able to do restoration works yet in hard-hit areas.

Telecommunications providers are also working double time to restore service in areas ravaged by the super typhoon.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ordered the telecom providers to fire up their networks as early as tomorrow.

Smart Communications Inc. said about 15 percent of its network in the Visayas region was destroyed by the typhoon while Globe Telecom Inc. said more than half of its network was affected.

Rolando Peña, head of technology services for PLDT and Smart, said it has commenced restoration work of facilities affected by the super typhoon and expects to fire up most of these equipment over the next two to three days.

“About 15 percent of our cellular coverage in the three regions of Central Philippines was affected by the super typhoon, most of these in Eastern Samar and Leyte which bore the brunt of the storm’s fury,” Peña said.

He added that less than one percent of the Smart network in Mindanao was affected, mostly in Surigao del Norte while less than 10 percent in South Luzon was affected, mostly in Masbate, Romblon.

“That is why we were able to continue providing services in areas such as Southern Leyte, Kalibo and Boracay in Aklan province. The teams that we prepositioned in the affected provinces started restoration work immediately after the storm passed. They put Ormoc City back on air last night and we are moving to the surrounding municipalities from there,” he said.

In a number of areas, Peña explained that service was unavailable because of the lack of commercial electricity.

“To address this, we are dispatching generation sets to augment local power. We are also making available to local residents power in our cell sites to enable them to recharge their mobile phones,” he added.

Full normalization of service would depend on the restoration of commercial power that was also affected by Yolanda.

On the other hand, Sun Cellular advised subscribers in the Visayas to use the Smart network to boost their network signal.

“This will allow you to use the Smart network while we are restoring services,” Sun Cellular said.

The service is available in Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Cebu, Eastern Samar, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Northern Samar, Siquijor, Southern Leyte, Leyte, and Western Samar.

Globe head of corporate communications Yoly Crisanto said it would take the company at least 48 hours to restore services in areas hard hit by the typhoon.

“We have activated our Disaster Coordination Center in Lahug and our Regional Operations Center to expedite restoration efforts in the Visayas region. Globe technical teams in the region continue to do coordination, monitoring and site assessments in the affected areas,” Crisanto said.

As of Saturday, damage assessment revealed that about 53 percent of the Globe network in the Visayas region had been adversely affected by the storm.

Service areas affected include those in Aklan, Antique, Biliran, Bohol, Capiz, Eastern Samar, Guimaras, Leyte, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Northern Samar, Siquijor, Southern Leyte and Western Samar.

Crisanto said service disruption in the Visayas region was due mostly to multiple transmission link failures and prolonged commercial power outages following storm surges and strong winds brought by the super typhoon.

Still, voice, text and data services in a large part of the following areas are now available: Antique – 45 percent; Bohol – 64 percent; Cebu – 60 percent; Guimaras – 88 percent; Iloilo – 64 percent; Negros Occidental – 70 percent; Negros Oriental – 87 percent; Northern Samar – eight percent; Southern Leyte – 28 percent; Siquijor – 100 percent and Western Samar – two percent.

Globe said they were able to fully restore services in Tacloban yesterday with the help of the city government and national disaster teams.

A temporary cell site was put up near Hotel Alejandro in Tacloban.

Smart was able to restore services in Cabulihan, Maasin in Southern Leyte and the municipalities of Matalom, Bato, Hilongos, Macrohon and Hindang in Leyte; San Carlos, Negros Oriental; Bantayan Island, Cebu; Calatrava, Negros Occidental; Dimiao, Bohol; Badiangan, Ajuy-Culasi, Cabatuan, Anilao, Banate, Maasin, PD Monfort, Janijuay, Sta. Barbara, Leganes, Barotac Nuevo, Pavia, San Miguel, Dumangas, Alimodian, Tiwi, Barotac Nuevo, Mina, Dingle, Zarraga, Pototan in Iloilo, and all of Masbate except for Mobo, Cataingan, Palanas, and Pio V. Corpuz.

Network services have been operational since yesterday in Ormoc City, Leyte as well in the following areas in Western Samar: Calbayog City, Calbiga, City of Catbalogan, Daram, Gandara, Jiabong, Macrohon, Matuguinao, Paranas (Wright), San Jose de Buan, Santa Margarita, Tarangnan, Villareal.

Smart would also be providing Libreng Tawag (free call) services in Tacloban City using satellite services in partnership with Telecoms Sans Frontieres (TSF).

“Tacloban is one of the most devastated areas in the Visayas with power and regular communication lines still down. Smart, as part of the Emergency Communications Cluster helping the government, flew in twice yesterday satellite and other telco equipment,” Smart public affairs group chief Ramon Isberto said.

For its Libreng Tawag station in Tacloban City, Smart is using TSF’s BGAN, the world’s first mobile communications service to deliver broadband data and voice, simultaneously, through a single portable device via satellite. Smart Satellite Services meanwhile utilizes technologies like the SatSleeve which can transform an iPhone into a portable satellite unit to its Marino Phone Pal units.

The free call station was set up at the police station near city hall yesterday and was open afternoon until evening. The service is expected to resume today.

Smart with TSF will continue to provide satellite voice and data communications for the responders and affected residents.

The same range of satellite services has been extended to various institutional partners and local government units to expedite post-disaster response coordination.

Smart Satellite Services and TSF’s BGAN are now being used by the following: Office of Civil Defense Region 8 Operations Center, Department of Social Welfare and Development, AFP Central Operations Center; Cebu Provincial Office; Phl Air Force; Phl Red Cross; Oxfam Philippines; and TV5.

The SatSleeves are also now being used by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and Secretary Petilla. – With Lawrence Agcaoili











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