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Sharjah blackout: worker dies as power cut endures

by CW Staff on Jul 22, 2010

Sharjah continues through the heat of summer without power. File picture, for illustrative purposes only.
Sharjah continues through the heat of summer without power. File picture, for illustrative purposes only.

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A construction worker has died and hospitals have been inundated with cases of heat exhaustion as power cuts continue to hit Sharjah, it was reported on Thursday.

The construction worker died just minutes after being taken to hospital suffering heat exhaustion on Tuesday, while the number of people being treated in hospital for heat related illnesses soared to four times the normal level, UAE daily The National reported.

Forty cases were reported on Tuesday and another 45 had been logged by Wednesday afternoon, Dr Nilova Qureshi, the director of the hospital’s emergency department told the paper.

The power cuts have contributed to the increased heat-stroke cases, as even with the midday break rule workers have not had a cool environment,” she said.

“One Indian worker, 27 years working in the construction industry, died a few minutes after he had been brought to the emergency department on Tuesday.”

Power failures continued throughout the emirate on Wednesday, the paper added, with almost the whole of Sharjah city without power by midday.

Several banks shut, petrol stations closed partly and some office employees were given the day off.

Shopping centres were full, with long queues of cars seeking access to their air-conditioned interiors as families took refuge from the heat, the paper reported.

The power cuts that plagued Sharjah over this year and last have been blamed on a shortage of natural gas and the high cost of diesel replacements.
On Tuesday, Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (Sewa) described the recent failures as not unusual.

Earlier this week, CW reported that even suppliers of stand-alone heavy duty power generators were suffering throught the crisis.

Keith Jones, general manager of Al Wasit Machinery explained that although one part of the group actually rents gensets, the separate heavy equipment division is left sitting in the dark: “We’ve got one set running out the back here, but it isn’t completely compatible with the whole building.”

He added: “It’s absolutely ridiculous – we never know when the power is going to drop and for how long”

A kilometre or two away, plant hire and pile cutting firm German Gulf Enterprises is also dealing with lack of power.

R C Menon, a manager at the company explained: “It’s a very bad scene. We thought last year was bad but this year is worse”.

"You can’t get hold of SEWA, their phones are just not answered. The area in which I live, Al Shingara, the supermarkets are all refreezing their frozen food. Tomorrow, you will find all the people getting sick."

Menon added: “I’m running the whole operation on four generators, two for the camp and two for [the offices] That is the only alternative. Right now, if you ask any generator supplier, right up to Jebel Ali, he will say that his generators are in Sharjah”

Ironically, the firm actually is involved in generator hire, but has run out of stock.

“Our sister company, one based opposite us deals exclusively in generators, but we don’t have anything free. They had one machine, but apart from that we had to take from outside.”

SEWA were not responding to media requests, and therefore would not speculate on the nature of the outage. However, a spokesperson at Dubai-based Rental Solutions and Services suggested that there is more than one factor at play.

“Some of their power plants get hot because of over use, very similar to a car engine, which if it gets too hot will trigger a trip so it will buzz down. Sometimes companies like ours are called in to supply cold air to the power plants.”

“However, there can also be problems with the turbines and with the distribution network. There are many elements in play in Sharjah right now” he concluded.