Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Hospitals could be badly affected


Hospitals would be among the first establishments to be adversely affected by a prolonged power failure, especially those who have their family members and loved ones seriously ill and requiring urgent medical treatment. Pointing this out, Suhakam Vice President Tan Sri Simon Sipaun said that without a good back-up system, the lives of patients who are in critical condition could be endangered. He said TNB and SESB should consider emergency situations in the hospitals and clinics when dealing with disruptions. Simon stressed that it is high time the authorities concerned put an end to the perennial problem. “I remember in Tambunan, my hometown, it is really a hassle to the residents, as they cannot see their way around without streetlights, and have problem with their fridges with food turning bad, and so on. “Blackout is very regular these days and I wonder why the authorities could not solve the problem effectively. “What would the tourists say? I am sure most of them would say they have bad experiences in Malaysia. They would bring with them the stories. “When the State Government handed over the power supply to TNB, we the people had expected the service to be much better, but what happened today? “I suggest the authorities look into this problem seriously rather than any other mega projects or Sabah Development Corridor.”


Blackout affects studies, works of students


Students of higher learning institutes here were among those who were affected by the statewide blackout on Monday night. Most of them were in the midst of studying and completing assignments when the blackout occurred. Those who did not save their assignments on the computers were frustrated as they had to do it all over again. According to Mohd Afis Hissein, a college student, he and some friends were busy studying for their examination when the electricity supply was cut off. “Some of my friends were doing their work on the computers while others were doing research on the Internet. When the blackout happened, we were frustrated as we could not continue with our studies,” he said. A trainee from the Politeknik here also had the same experience and frustration as their studies had to be stopped because of the blackout. “We had to leave our homework unfinished and went to sleep early,” the student said. An officer from the Kota Kinabalu City Hall felt the same as she had some materials to prepare for a function today. “I was typing the materials when the power supply was cut off. It affected my preparation for the function today,” she said. For Siti Ning, a Legal Advisor, she thought the blackout was caused by some illegal activities. Rocky Mabin, a Government officer for the Inanam District - Court, pointed out that electricity disruptions are common in Sabah and should be rectified by Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) as soon as possible. “These disruptions are a burden to consumers and business proprietors, thus the need to rectify the problem,” he said. Benjamin Basintal, a part-time lecturer from UMS, said the relevant authorities must look into the matter very seriously. “I have said earlier, do not wait for structures to collapse; be proactive and do frequent checks. Replace what needs be and solve the problem at the root. Other states in Malaysia do not have frequent electricity disruptions but why it happens in Sabah? “The State Government must look for other alternatives to solve the problem immediately and permanently by postponing other unimportant mega projects. Blackouts are adverse occurrences as they affect the entire fabric of a community. They cause chaos near traffic lights, security problem to home dwellers, endanger the lives of patients in hospitals, disrupt studies, business trade and most of all, tarnish the image of a nation when foreign tourists are affected,” he said. A few restaurant operators along Gaya Street when asked about the situation on Monday night, said it was a hectic time for them when the electricity went off. Most of their customers got up to leave the premises so their staff had a busy time collecting money from them before they left. Some of the business operators said they closed early to avoid any untoward incidents. The blackout also affected bus commuters who had a hard time seeing their stops as the streetlights were not functioning.


Collapsed tower cannot be sole reason for total blackout: Hiew


The Member of Parliament here, Dr Hiew King Cheu, has expressed great regret over the total blackout and power cut all over Sabah on Tuesday evening that lasted for a few hours from 6.30pm.He said the blackout not only brought inconvenience to the people but also losses involving a great sum of money to business operators in many districts, including Tawau, Sandakan and the State Capital. “My cellphone was inundated with calls for three hours and this indicated the seriousness of the power disruption,” he said. Hiew said that he could not contact the Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) personnel during the power failure. He only managed to get through them yesterday for more details. “Their explanation for the statewide blackout was merely due to the collapse of a high tension tower near UMS, which is believed due to some of the metal strut or component of the tower been stolen and removed from the tower. “This caused the tower structure to collapse. The collapse of the tower caused the whole power grid to trip and cut off the power in the whole State. As SESB explained, it will take time to reassume and to feed power to the various parts of Sabah,” said Hiew who also heads the KK DAP Branch. H said the power failure was abnormal and indicated that the power management by SESB and the State Government is highly inefficient. He reckoned that the SESB supply system should be equipped with “fail safe system” to cut off or to link up in case of power generator failure happened in a certain area. “In this case, if the power generator or the line linking or supplying to the State grid failed, there should be an immediate cut off from the main grid and not affecting the whole system in supplying power to the other areas. There must be something seriously wrong in the system technically or there is a design fault. Therefore, the collapsed tower cannot be the sole reason for the total blackout.


Outage a wake-up call; time to have back-up: Masidi


The biggest power outage in Sabah history that left 90 percent of State in darkness on Monday night clearly signalled the urgent need for a back-up power system to be set in place, said Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun. He said it was also a reminder to the Government, in particular the Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB), to immediately enhance the monitoring system of vital equipments in the electricity supply system to ensure they are all in reliable condition. “Clearly, we can’t rely on a single source. It’s time for SESB to seriously consider setting up a backup system to ensure we are prepared in case of similar incidents happening in the future,” he said when speaking to reporters after opening a seminar on Understanding of Environment Requirements at Pacific Sutera Harbour here yesterday. Stressing that he was not pointing a finger at anyone over the incident, Masidi said such a major power disruption could really hurt many businesses and cause huge losses to the State, including the tourism industry He said the impact of such a blackout on the State’s commercial and industrial sectors could be severe as it affected the operation of many businesses and factories, as those with no back-up power system were forced to stop production until the power was restored. In the tourism industry for instance, though most of the resorts and big hotels have their own generators to power their lights and some of their essential electrical equipments, their guests could have been uncomfortable throughout the Monday outage as the air conditioning system was shut down. Acknowledging power outages as a major problem in the State, Masidi said serious attention from everyone and a lot of money are needed to effectively address the issue. “The effect is huge. It goes beyond just households having uncomfortable night without TV, fan or air conditioner. Hotels, factories, traffic lights, just to name a few, are all affected. This is not good for our image, especially among the tourists,” he said. He said SESB’s quick action in rectifying the problem and ability to restore the electricity supply in considerably short time was commendable, considering the magnitude of the outage. But the incident should serve as a wake up call and a lesson to SESB that they cannot assume everything will always go well, he said. “Similar incidents may even happen again in the future. And when that happens, it’s better if we are prepared,” he said. “I believe with the current management of SESB, they would be able to do something to improve our readiness to face such such power trip in the future. Give them (SESB) time to rectify the problem, I believe they can,” he said, adding, the previous and current GM had done well in managing the State’s sole power provider. Asked if the incident would cause a change in the Government’s stance on the cancellation of a coal-fired power plant project in Lahad Datu, he said SESB has a compelling reason to build the plant and the power outage on Monday has further highlighted the State’s need for additional power source. However, he said, the State Government has a very strong reason not to go ahead with the construction of the power plant, taking into consideration the potential harm it could cause to the pristine environment in the area. “Sabah is noted for its serene and beautiful nature; the moment we destroy it, nobody will come. Thus, continuing the project would seem to be foolish. We may save some money now but lose a lot more in the future. It doesn’t make sense,” he said. He noted that water discharge from coal-fired power plant operation would cause an increase in the temperature of surrounding seawater by up to two degree Celsius.


Help fight vandalism, SESB urges


Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd has urged consumers to join them in combating vandalism. “There may be only 2,000 SESB staff throughout the State but we believe we have three million supporters out there... we are calling on our consumers to support us in our fight against vandalism,” said SESB Managing Director, Baharin Din, yesterday. The major blackout on Monday, which affected some 300,000 consumers in the State, was the last straw for SESB. Baharin said initial investigation showed signs of vandalism which led to the collapse of the transmission tower at Suang Parai, near here. Accompanied by City Police Chief ACP Ahmad Sofi Zakaria in an inspection visit to the site yesterday, he said about 20 section members (pieces of steel) that held the transmission tower up were removed and probably sold off as scrap metal. The barb wires fixed around the transmission tower had also failed to stop suspected vandals from committing the act. Baharin yesterday said close surveillance of any digging activities in the area (Tuaran Road, Jalan Kampung Likas, Likas Coastal Road, Jalan UMS) is being intensified. “Cooperation from everyone, including the public, is sought,” he said. Meanwhile, Ahmad Sofi said full investigations are being carried out and the police are also checking the scrap metal dealers’ premises in their effort to track down the culprits.


SESB blames vandals
Steel theft causes transmission tower to collapse, triggering domino effect, says MD

Vandalism has been blamed for Sabah’s worst power failure that affected some 300,000 consumers in most parts of the State on Monday. According to Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) Managing Director, Baharin Din, the collapsed transmission tower at Suang Parai area here showed obvious signs of vandalism. About 20 section members (pieces of steel) were removed from the 132 kilovolt (KV) transmission tower, thus resulting in the collapse and massive statewide outage that lasted for about six hours from 6.4lpm on Monday, he said. Baharin told a Press conference yesterday that this was the worst blackout in the State since the commissioning of the East-West Power Grid in November last year. The transmission line between Kayu Madang and Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) collapsed, leading to a power trip that caused a domino effect, tripping all SESB at independent power plants connect to the various grids, he explained. “Then the RM400,000 transmission tower collapsed; all the lines lost connectivity and power cannot be transmitted to all area And since the frequency dropped the system could not sustain, an crashed as well,” he said. As a result, SESB lost about 50 megawatts (MW) of power, affecting, consumers in the West, East and Northeast, West and East coasts of Sabah, as well as part of Labuan. Luckier consumers residing in Beaufort, Keningau, Tambunan Tenom, Telupid and Ranau were no affected by the blackout as they are not connected to the grid system and have their own power generation. Baharin said SESB’s 15454 hotline number had been ringing non-stop with the number of calls shooting u from the average 500 a day to at least 50,000 within the six hours. Power restoration was carried out in stages at the affected areas, starting from 7. 15pm (Monday) and supply was fully restored by 12. 15am on Tuesday,” he said. “We believe the vandals had stolen the section members, hoping to make some money but at the expense of many consumers in the State,” he said. “They could have probably earned RM40 in scrap value but caused huge losses and inconveniences to the people of Sabah, and probably even to themselves. The State’s economy also suffered.” Asked whether the act of vandalism was committed overnight, Baharin said: “This activity could not have been done in one night or for a long period. Our guess is that it had taken the suspects a few days. Currently, steps are being taken to build a temporary tower with the help of SESBs parent company, Tenaga Nasional Berhad and : Armed Forces personnel,” he said. The tower will be sent down and set up within three weeks before a permanent tower is erected in four months, he said. “Right now, the situation is fragile as we are using an alternative underground 66KV cable to channel power from one of the generation plants here,” Baharin said. The West Coast of the State is providing most of the power supply to the east coast areas where the generation capacity is low due to the use of old diesel-powered generators. He said SESB might implement load shedding, depending on the peak demands between 11am and noon and 3pm and noon, and if the situation warrants. Asked why there was no mechanism to stop the power supply but right now, there is just enough power domino effect of the tripping, Baharin replied: “Such a to meet the demand. Sabah does not have that luxury mechanism can only be done if there is an excess of yet.”


Abduction suspects rearrested over rape


The two suspects remanded over the recent abduction of a Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) student were yesterday rearrested as soon as they were released on police bail. The two men were rearrested and brought to Karamunsing Police Headquarters, where they will be investigated under Section 376 of the Penal Code for a rape case in Keningau, according to Inspector Jakariya Jupakal, the Investigating Officer of the abduction case. The rape case under Section 376 of the Penal Code provides a jail term of between five and 20 .years and whipping. Earlier, Magistrate Marlina Ibrahim released the suspects, aged 20 and 29, following an application by Prosecuting Officer Chief Inspector Lim Swee Beng on behalf of Jakarya. The 20-year--old man from Kampung Pirasan, Kota Belud was first remanded for four days on April 17 but his remand was extended by three days on Sunday. The older suspect was also first remanded for four days on April 18 and the remand expired yesterday. Both were initially remanded under Section 117 of the Criminal Procedure Code to assist in police investigation into the abduction case under Section 365 of the Penal Code, which provides a jail term up to seven years and a fine. The two men had allegedly abducted the UMS student in a Perodua Kancil car while she was walking to a church in Taman Kingfisher, Likas.