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Dhaka Tribune

Black day puts spotlight on energy security

Update : 01 Nov 2014, 07:04 PM

The power outage caused by the failure of the national grid has hobbled production at factories, hampered daily life and imperilled patients at different hospitals.

 Most hospitals in the capital survived with the power from generators after the national grid went down twice since 11:30am yesterday. Most were rationing their power supply to cover only urgent energy-intensive services such as Intensive Care Units (ICU), Cardiac Care Units (CCU) and emergency rooms. Some were not able to run routine medical tests because of the power failure.

“The generators are our last option but if they fail, then we will not be able to serve the patients because everything depends on electricity,” Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) deputy director Dr Mushfiqur Rahman told Dhaka Tribune.

“Now we have 5 generators which are all working but it is uncertain how long they will work. When I contacted the managing director of Dhaka Power Distribution Company (DPDC), he instructed me to reserve extra fuel to operate the generators,” the DMCH deputy director said.

“We are facing a water crisis which is making it very difficult to cook food for thousands of patients. The lifts are inactive so patients cannot be moved safely and swiftly,” he added.

Many patients could not do any medical tests because of the power failure.

“I went to Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) yesterday for a pathology test but could not have it done,” said Mominul Islam who came from Gazipur in the early morning.

Lovely Begum, from the capital’s Mirpur area, is in the emergency unit of the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, after suffering three bouts of sudden chest pain on Friday night.

“Although I was able get an ECG test done here, the doctors have prescribed other tests which are not possible to take here because of the power failure,” she said.

At the National Institute of Kidney Diseases & Urology (NIKDU), National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases, DMCH, BSMMU and other government and private hospitals, apart from the ICUs, CCUs and emergency rooms, the wards and cabins had no electricity and the administration offices were working by candle light.

Professor AKM Zamanul Islam Bhuiyan, a director at NIKDU, said the hospital is running on self-generated power but could not continue like this for much longer.

A BSMMU official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Dhaka Tribune: “Our operation theatre (OT) did not function properly since the power outage started. Only the lights work but the other necessary OT equipment did not work. We have to reschedule all the operations.”

Every hospital administrator said the same thing –  if the generators fail, patients’ lives will be in peril.

Our Chittagong correspondent reported that Chittagong Medical College Hospital (CMCH) resumed power supply to the operation theatre and other emergency units with back-up generators. But in the wards, doctors and nurses worked with mobile telephone flash lights, and the X-ray machine and other emergency medical machinery could not be used. 

CMCH Director Brigadier General Khondokar Shahidul Gani said they used power from their generators in operation theatres and other emergency units. The electric supply resumed at the hospital around 6pm. The operation of Chittagong Port remained normal during the power collapse.

Chittagong Port Authority Director (Transport) Golam Sarwar said the operational activities at the port remained normal thanks to an alternative electricity line.

Our Khulna Correspondent reported that electricity was cut off at Khulna Medical College Hospital (DMCH) around 10am.

In the capital, some homes, offices, businesses and markets used generators and IPS batteries to operate lights and other amenities but most of the city remained in the dark.

Two or three hours into the marathon power failure, throngs of people carrying jerry cans converged on petrol pumps to buy diesel for generators.

By evening people were seen buying candles from shops.

Water too was scarce in different areas of the capital. The water supply is energy dependent.

“WASA staff said they could not operate the pump because of the power cut. There is no alternative source of electricity there,” Mizanur Rahman, a Rampura resident, said.

Sources at Dhaka Electric Supply Company (Desco) said the power supply to Bangabhaban and Gonobhaban was uninterrupted because of special lines. But the residential areas of the staff working there had no power supply. 

Shahjalal International Airport, government-run Bangladesh Television and state-owned radio, Bangladesh Betar, were also provided with uninterrupted power supply. Railway signals were not hampered because they are powered by solar panels. But the authorities could not supply water to the trains.

Meanwhile our Savar and Gazipur correspondents reported that most garment factories halted their operations yesterday afternoon.

Vice-President of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, Shahidullah Azim, told the Dhaka Tribune over the telephone that factories continued running for two or three hours following the power cut but then suspended operations. 

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