Blackout has Trinidad & Tobago Bloggers Seeing Red

Good Friday in Trinidad and Tobago was suddenly dubbed “Black Friday” as the country descended into darkness, thanks to a nationwide blackout. Most people were communicating via Facebook and Twitter. One tweet gave the reason behind the outage…

@vindaRd: MT “@KeronRsingh: Phoenix gas had a power trip causing a shortage of gas to Powergen, which leads to nationwide #blackout.” #Trinidad

…while another summed up the general feeling:

@thackshaw: Looks like.I going to have to change.everything with the car charger now. Lord help us. Thank God the internet still up. #Trinidad #blackout

Despite the inconvenience, some netizens decided to take a lighter view of the situation…

@Sonz246: Allyah pay the light bill yet? @phillipyearwood #trinidad #blackout

@TriniBerry: Should have gotten that gas stove #regrets #trinidad #blackout

…while others were taking things very seriously:

@thackshaw: #Trinidad #Tobago power failure simply reinforces my argument that we need a 2nd power grid, based on alternative energy sources. #blackout

As dark turned to dawn and there was still no electricity, a sleep-deprived @TriniBerry tweeted:

@TriniBerry: So happy the sun coming up, mosquitoes, dogs and frogs could be quiet now #trinidad #blackout

Instagram photos and jokes soon followed:

@SocaboyCC: So is there ah #Trinidad #Blackout fete today lol?

At around 11 o'clock the next morning, with power having gone for close to twelve hours, JN was completely fed-up. In response to a CNN TV6 tweet, sent at 8:13 am, which stated that 90% of customers had had their electricity restored, he replied:

@jasonnPOS: @tv6tnt Seriously? I live in the minority 10%? #steups #trinidad #blackout

A few hours later, he reported:

@jasonnPOS: 11.10am 29/3/2012: St. James, #Trinidad remains without power after an island wide #blackout lasting more than 10 hours.

At around the same time, the conspiracy theories started to fly, with many netizens questioning the timing of events. For instance, people noted that the TV6 news had tweeted questions about people losing power hours before the alleged cause of the blackout had taken place. The Eternal Pantomime went into further detail in this blog post:

The excuse given by the authorities thus far is that our supply of natural gas to the power plant generators was cut off. And that led to the shutting down of not just one generator or plant…but all of Trinidad and eventually to most of Tobago…

Interestingly, Tobago’s electrical plant runs on diesel…so I’m still unclear as to how their plant stopped working.

Not surprisingly, the Prime Minister…was out and about dealing with the emergency brought on by the power outage.

The curious thing is this…power went at 37 minutes after midnight…but the clocks at this power plant shows (sic) the PM and engineers and Minister of Energy onsite at 21:13:29. [The blogger posts photographs to support her argument]

Now unless the efficient folks at this professionally run power plant keep the wrong time on their clocks…The PM and crew were at the plant since 9 pm last night working on an outage that still hadn't happened…what gives?

Are the conspiracy theorists who I was laughing at on to something?

Have we gone from Full Dotish to outright Dangerous Governance?

Diaspora blogger Jumbie's Watch agreed:

Eternal Pantomime rightfully asked how come the photo op pictures of the PM were showing a time some 4 hours BEFORE the actual blackout.

One Roger D Ramcharitar dared to post a response at the UNCTT.ORG website.

As a former Advisor at the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs, I sought clarification from colleagues within the industry and I have been able to ascertain that the clock in the photograph was actually a satellite clock which displayed an INCORRECT TIME as a result of the power outage knocking it off temporarily.

For those who do not know, an atomic, satellite, or wave clock receives a signal which automatically syncs the time to as accurate as ‘neither gaining nor losing time at a rate that would exceed a second in over a billion years’. My watch, for example, is a Casio Waveceptor which works on the same principle and receives 5 such signals per night and maintains accurate time.

Once the electricity is restored, the clocks in Trinidad receive their signal from Miami and resets (sic) automatically. No need to go around manually setting time. Mr Ramcharitar, to put it bluntly, is merely perpetuating UNC propaganda to the herd. And they’re lapping it up.

Jumbie shared his own take on the situation here, while The Eternal Pantomime raised more questions:

I got up this morning and the first thing I did was pull the battery out of my phones. I waited about 10 minutes, popped the battery back in and switched the phones on. The phones booted up and switched to the correct time.

I then did the same thing with my microwave and electric stove. Pulled the plug and then plugged them back in. Both the stove and microwave went back to 00:00.

I then pulled out a Nokia phone that I keep stored safely away for the end of the world. This phone isn’t charged regularly, once every few months; and it is switched off. I switched it on after months of no use and it immediately had the correct time.

Why am I going into all of this? To show you how ridiculous the government’s response about the clock at Powergen having shut down and not re-started properly is.

She continued:

The power outage happens and the PM whose ratings have plummeted sees this as the perfect way to curry favour with the population. It’s almost as if, in the aftermath of WarnerGate, this blackout showed up as a gift.

According to most reports the black out happened around midnight. The Prime Minister shows up at around 5 am dressed as if she dropped everything and hustled out of the door….4 hours after the black out started. And she just happened to remember to bring along a photographer along to document the trip. And in the midst of working assiduously to bring power back on to the suffering citizens the engineers and technicians at PowerGen Syne Village Plant had time to pose for several group pics with the PM. I couldnt make this thing up if I tried.

If nothing else, that clock at PowerGen tells us that something very sloppy went down at the Plant. This is a plant responsible for providing electricity to an entire grid. That grid would comprise various villages. Time in a control room at an industrial plant is a serious thing. When incidents happen or readings are taken, you have to register times.

If the clock…and members of Kamla’s PR team keep telling me it’s a satellite and GPS clock….if the clock in the control room isn’t telling the correct time. Then whose time are they going by?

Let’s say the clock stopped at 00:37 or 00:45 which is the time most newspapers have given. When exactly did the power come back on at the Penal Plant for the time to be registered as 21:13:29?

You feeling me yet? The time on the clock, regardless of what argument, makes no sense.

The clock on the wall is actually a damning indictment of operational procedures at PowerGen Penal…unless of course the clock telling the correct time and the Prime Minister was there at 9 pm instead of 5 am…which is a whole other can of worms.

aka_lol was slightly more tongue-in-cheek about the whole affair:

The Easter Blackout of 2013 will go down in Trinidad and Tobago’s history as the most exciting thing to happen to this country since the attempted coup of 1990. It is rumored that this 8, 10, 12 hour electricity blackout was accidental and in no way the work of a defeated and humiliated but powerful and highly moral union or the disgruntled and eager-for-power opposition.

It was during this blackout that people had time to reflect on something other than Jack Warner and realize how dependent on electricity and Protox we have become.

This incident showed how easy it probably still is to shut the country down and that…all that is need[ed] is one false alarm from a gas plant and away we go.

The uncanny thing? A day later, Jamaica (Trinidad and Tobago's neighbour to the north of the Caribbean archipelago) also experienced a nationwide blackout, prompting Samir King to quip:

@persian_king: To my fellow Jamaicans- Yesterday it was #Trinidad, to its #Jamaica, Happy Islandwide #blackout!!!

The thumbnail image used in this post is by janinephoto, used with permission.


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