Millions without power
Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - July 17, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Typhoon Glenda knocked out power starting late Tuesday across large swaths of Luzon and the Visayas.

As of 4:30 p.m. yesterday, about 4.5 million customers of the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), representing 82 percent of its franchise area in Luzon, remained without power.

The company said it was difficult to say when power would be restored, as it must first assess the extent of damage, which could be done only after the rains subsided around noon

 As early as Tuesday night, the typhoon’s damage to poles and transmission lines left 90 percent of Meralco’s franchise areas without electricity.

“The transmission lines of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines in the Southern Luzon grid remain to be out. Due to said outages of vital NGCP transmission lines, generation plants in the south are unable to deliver power,” Meralco said in its advisory.

NGCP, the country’s grid operator, said it was working overtime to restore the toppled lines.

“We are working on immediately restoring our feeders into Meralco but actual return of power to the consumers depends on the status of their lines, too,” NGCP spokesperson Cynthia Alabanza said.

“We are targeting to restore 60 percent of power in Metro Manila before the end of the day. Target dates for the rest of the areas will follow once we have more information,” Energy Secretary Carlos Petilla added.

With the total outage of supply from the south, Meralco said efforts to convey power from the northern grid are being undertaken.

The hardest hit franchise areas of Meralco include the Calabarzon region, specifically the areas of Laguna, Cavite, Quezon and parts of Rizal such as Binangonan, Morong, Tanay, Pililia and Jala-jala.

“Restoration time depends on several factors, including how soon the affected transmission facilities will be operational, the volume of debris that has to be cleared in affected areas, and the extent of damage to Meralco’s own distribution facilities, among others,” Meralco said in its advisory.

Meralco appealed for the public’s understanding as it continues restoration efforts. It said that it would work to bring power back to affected areas and customers at “the soonest possible time.”

Downed communications

The widespread power outages caused by Typhoon Glenda also affected the networks of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) and Ayala-led Globe Telecom Inc.

PLDT spokesman Ramon Isberto said the facilities of the PLDT Group including Smart and Sun Cellular in Metro Manila as well as Regions 3, 4 and 5 remained intact even during the storm’s fury.

However, widespread commercial power outages have disrupted normal services in various areas, PLDT said.

“Though key installations of both fixed line and mobile networks have standby power, many facilities rely in varying degrees on commercial power. Prolonged outages will thus disrupt normal services once the internal batteries in equipment run out,” Isberto explained.

He added the company has deployed generator sets in strategic areas to keep vital facilities operating and speed up restoration of normal service.

“We wish to assure the public that we are exerting every effort to restore normal operations as soon as possible,” Isberto said.

On the other hand, Globe corporate communications chief Yoly Crisanto said areas heavily affected by Typhoon Glenda experienced service disruption due to commercial power outages.

In its initial network assessment, Crisanto reported mobile services were affected in Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Marinduque, Masbate, Quezon and Sorsogon.

She said the company’s technical personnel are on the ground to do immediate restoration of services.

Crisanto explained cell sites are equipped with alternate power sources such as batteries and generator sets in light of prolonged loss of commercial power.

She pointed out several cellsite antennas have been reportedly damaged by strong winds.

But no major infrastructure damage has been reported, she said.

“Our on-ground technical teams are continuously providing reports and doing site assessments for immediate service recovery,” Crisanto added.

Globe earlier activated regional disaster teams in South Luzon, North Luzon and Metro Manila to also address relief operations and assistance.

Globe is preparing to mobilize libreng tawag (free calls) facilities and relief operations in the typhoon devastated areas.

“We will start putting up libreng tawag centers and relief operations in the affected areas as soon as we get the go signal that it is safe to deploy people there,” Crisanto said.

Meanwhile, power in the province of Nueva Ecija was immediately restored after one hour of interruption due to Typhoon Glenda.

The only problem recorded so far was when power was cut in seven towns and a city in Nueva Ecija and five towns in Aurora when the 69-kilovolt line tripped.

Ernest Vidal, regional communication officer of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines, said the power transmission service was restored after an hour in the Nueva Ecija towns of Talavera, General Natividad, Llanera, Bongabon, Gabaldon, Laur, Rizal and Palayan City and in the Aurora towns of Dingalan, San Luis, Maria Aurora, Dipaculao and Baler. – Lawrence Agcaoili, Manny Galvez

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