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Huge losses, horror in hospitals over countrywide power outage

 ICU medical equipment. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The power blackout that hit the country on Sunday evening resulted in huge losses to businesses, horror to hospitals without backup generators, and dealt a blow to the economy.

On Monday, stakeholders in some of the worst-hit sectors were struggling to pick up the pieces amid a wave of uncertainties over the country's power stability after a series of blackouts in recent months.

Several hours

The Sunday blackout lasted for several hours in some parts of the country but various stakeholders claimed its spiral effect was destructive to an already limping economy.

In the Coastal region, health authorities reported a huge expenditure on fuel to run generators during the more than 12 hours of outage.

At the same time, the port of Mombasa reported a stoppage of container discharge operations on five ships because of the power cut.

Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) Head of Corporate Affairs Bernard Osero said the ship-to-shore gantry cranes could not operate because there was no power for 12 hours.

“There was a ship with only 20 containers but it could not be worked on until morning because the cranes require power. This was a big loss because ships usually make money when they are in the high seas,” he said.

In Taita Taveta County, health authorities noted that the county government has resorted to using diesel to run power backup generators to save lives.

County Health Executive Gifton Mkaya confirmed that they have been spending a lot of money on diesel because power has not been reliable in the area.

Sabotaging growth

The residents accused the power company of sabotaging growth and investment in the region.

In Kericho, the business community said the recurring power blackouts have dealt a blow to establishments and their investments.

Benson Magolo, proprietor and executive chef of Aubergine Restaurant, expressed his concerns, revealing that the power outage resulted in the loss of stored food and also left them with at least three damaged items, particularly affecting their deep freezes.

"Deep freezes have so far been damaged. We incur losses every time there is a power blackout," said Magolo.

Wilson Gitu, the Nakuru Business Association chairman, regretted that the blackout has affected the majority of his members in the manufacturing process.

Gitu observed that those in the entertainment business experienced huge losses as customers got away without paying their bills due to blackouts.

Businesses closed

In Kapsabet, activities were paralysed for hours forcing sections of businesses to be closed due to lack of alternative sources of power.

Samson Matutu, one of the bar managers, said they lost over Sh50,000 after clients left their restaurant earlier than usual.

Kapsabet County Referral Hospital was among the facilities that were also affected.

County Executive for Health and Sanitation Ruth Koech said the standby generators provided a constant supply that served the maternity facility and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) until midnight when the power supply returned to normalcy.

In the Western region, traders who rely on electricity for their operations are counting heavy losses following the nationwide power outage that lasted for nearly three hours.

Owners of entertainment joints, hotels, butcheries and milk depots said the blackout had affected their businesses.

In Kakamega County, Rose Atembi, who runs a fast food joint in Kakamega town, said she was forced to close her business for fear of insecurity.

“I have no generator and since I was in the process of preparing food, I had to stop,” she said Atembi.

Kakamega CECM for Health Services Bernard Wesonga said they managed to contain the situation by using a standby generator.

In Vihiga, Becky Ingado, who operates a milk shop and butchery, said she encountered losses as power supply resumed at around 5am.

Western Region Police Commander Kiprono Langat said that police officers stepped up surveillance and security and they had not received any case involving mugging, robbery or break-ins.

In Murang'a, hundreds of businesses are counting losses after the electricity supply was disrupted slightly before 8pm.

Milka Njambi who operates a dairy shop at Kangari said her milk supply went stale due to lack of refrigeration.

"At 4pm, farmers delivered 60 litres and I had sold only half of that by 8pm. I had to close the premises early for my security," she said.

Hospitals, both public and private, were forced to use backup generators for power supply. However, those without could not offer any services.

A patient, Jecinta Wambui, recounted how her family was traumatised at Murang'a Level Five Hospital after darkness covered the facility when their mother was being attended to in the casualty wing.

"At first we suspected the worst had happened before the generator was ignited. Kenya Power should give an explanation to Kenyans over the incident," said Wambui.

Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital CEO Dr. Pauline Gacheri said operations were not affected.

"We have a backup generator that is automatic, so our services were not interrupted as a result of the blackout," Dr Gacheri said.

Sailen Ramji, the director of Mafuko Industries, one of the biggest bakeries in Meru, said they incurred huge costs since they had to look for alternative power.

End monopoly

In Nyanza, traders in Homa Bay County want the government to get another power supplier to end the monopoly being enjoyed by Kenya Power.

Homa Bay Giant Traders Association Chairman Jack Nyambega decried the losses they incurred due to the outage.

Nyambega told The Standard that the business community in Homa Bay incurred huge losses due to the blackout.

“The power outage occurred at a time when traders were in the peak of doing business. We incurred serious losses,” Nyambega said.

[Reports by Nikko Tanui, Yvonne Chepkwony, Benard Lusigi, Osinde Obare, Edward Kosut, James Omoro, Sharon Owino, Patrick Beja and Renson Mnyamwezi]

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