Power supply collapses in 8 flood-hit districts

Power supply to nearly eight million households in the eight flood-affected northern and northeastern districts has so far been suspended to minimize the risk of electricity-related accidents, as several power stations and substations were submerged by floodwaters, officials said.

The power outage for the past three consecutive days in the worst-hit areas of Sylhet and Sunamganj has subsequently led mobile towers – also known as Base Transceiver Stations or BTS – to halt their operations, virtually isolating the region’s inhabitants from the rest of the country. In addition, medical and other emergency services supplied with electricity now remain unavailable in the two districts.

Electricity supply to six other districts – Netrokona, Sherpur, Mymensingh, Kurigram, Rangpur and Gaibandha, where the flooding situation has worsened – is suspended in phases, following the collapse of road and rail communications.

Electricity distribution authorities, however, do not know when they will be able to resume electricity supply to flood-affected areas.

“We are watching the flooding situation closely for a resumption of electricity supply in the areas,” Debasish Chakrabarti, a member of the Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board, told Business Standard.

“As a precautionary measure, we have suspended the electricity supply to avoid any undue incident after several electricity substations were submerged in water.”

He said power will be restored as soon as the water level returns to normal.

According to the electrification board, out of the 7 lakh subscribers in Sylhet and Sunamganj, about five lakh are now without power, while the number of disconnected households stands at 2.6 lakh in the remaining districts.

The floods, which began in the northeast region on Wednesday, deteriorated further on Saturday. Army, navy and coast guard personnel and local public officials as well as volunteers were seen carrying out rescue operations for people stranded in remote areas.

Power substations, including the 132/33 KV Kumargaon grid, had to be shut down after floodwaters entered control rooms. Sylhet station was also under water. Therefore, all trains were instructed to end their journey at Maijgaon Station. Meanwhile, a railway bridge collapsed in the Mohanganj upazila of Netrakona under the rush of flood waters.

According to official data, the water level of the Someshwari River at Kolmakanda point was flowing 100cm above the danger level on Saturday. Additionally, the Kangsha River was flowing 8cm above the danger level at Zaria Point.

Mobile network failure

Mobile phone operators fail to serve the population in most areas of Sylhet and Sunamganj due to prolonged power outages.

“Outside the municipal area, mobile networks are currently not available,” said Mohammad Ali, a resident of Sylhet town, adding that the network was almost okay in the urban area.

Telecom operators said they could keep the network system operational for the highest 24 hours with battery support. Due to prolonged power outages, they have been unable to operate their services in the areas. Now they are looking for alternative power sources to keep the tower stations operational.

Speaking to TBS, Grameenphone officials said they are trying to keep their network active through various alternative means, including getting electrical equipment to possible towers, with the help of on-site rescue teams.

Banglalink, on the other hand, said that despite power outages and inclement weather, it was doing its best to keep its network running.

“We are working closely with the relevant authorities and have set up toll-free numbers. We will continue to provide the necessary support from our side,” said Ankit Sureka, its corporate communications and sustainability manager.

Alan A. Seibert