Odette’s unsung heroes lose one of their own

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Linemen at Visayan Electric Co. are working 24/7 to restore power to the Cebu metro, which lost its power supply following the onslaught of Typhoon “Odette” ( international name: Rai) on December 16. As of Christmas Day, power has been restored to approximately 46 percent of Metro Cebu. —POTO CONTRIBUTED

TANJAY CITY, NEGROS ORIENTAL — Ronald Gallarde worked on Christmas Day because he wanted power to be restored that very day to parts of his hometown that had been badly affected by Typhoon “Odette” (international name). : Rai).

But Gallarde, lineman for the Negros Oriental Electric Cooperative (Noreco), did not live long enough to see his dream come true.

Gallarde, 31, a resident of Tanjay town, died on Christmas Day after being electrocuted while attempting to repair a utility pole in Barangay Tugas which was knocked down by strong winds from Odette when he crossed his city and the Visayas on December 16. .

According to engineer Ernie Buenaflor, responsible for maintenance and operations at Noreco, the lineman was on top of a utility pole banging on a service cable when he was electrocuted.

He was rushed to the city’s emergency care clinic, but was already dead when he arrived at the medical facility.

“It was an accident,” said Buenaflor, who called Gallarde a “warrior of light”.

Faceless, tireless

Linemen have been among the faceless unsung heroes who work tirelessly around the clock to clean up and restore power lines that were toppled by the high winds spawned by Odette when she unleashed her wrath in the Visayas.

Electric utilities were successful in restoring power to parts of Cebu and Negros Oriental provinces as early as Christmas Day, which in turn activated water pumping stations in the Cebu metropolitan area and restored water supplies to parts of the Visayan metropolis.

Since December 26, power has been restored to parts of the towns of Dumaguete and Tanjay, as well as to the towns of Sibulan, Valencia, Bacong, Dauin, Zamboanguita, Amlan and Pamplona in Negros Oriental.

In Cebu, Visayan Electric Co. reported on its Facebook page that as of December 26, it had powered up a total of 18 pumping stations in the Cebu Metropolitan Water District and reconnected power to vital institutions, including including hospitals.

The electricity utility, the second largest in the country after Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), was able to supply 64,115 of the 474,182 customers affected and restore 251, or 46.1%, across the 544 power line segments. in its franchise area, which covers the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Talisay, and the cities of Liloan, Consolacion, Minglanilla, Naga and San Fernando.

INFABRIC WORKERS Visayan Electric Co. linemen are joined by volunteers from Manila Electric Co. as they work tirelessly, even on Christmas Day, to replace posts overturned during the height of Typhoon “Odette” on the 16th December and restore electricity to the Cebu metro. —POTO CONTRIBUTED

But full restoration would take longer in areas where Visayan Electric’s distribution facilities suffered heavy damage, such as overturned poles, fallen wires and damaged transformers, the company said.

Raul Lucero, president and COO of Visayan Electric, said they were grateful to the linemen in Luzon and Mindanao who “chose to spend Christmas in Cebu, away from their families, just to help restore power to Cebu “.

“We will not shut down until electricity is restored as soon as possible to all homes and establishments within our coverage areas,” Lucero said in his Christmas message on December 24.

No vacation

Christmas is usually a break for linemen, with the exception of those assigned to the emergency crew.

But several Visayan Electric linemen had to give up their Christmas vacation to work on restoration efforts in the Cebu metro.

One of them was Engineer Roy Nuñez, a Visayan Electric crew chief assigned to the team that spent Christmas Day fixing the broken 69-kilovolt line along Avenue des Nations. United in the city of Mandaue.

“My family is sad that I can’t be with them to celebrate Christmas, but it’s my job. This is our job. It was instilled in my mind and in the minds of my team members that we have to work, we have to help, ”he said.

Baltazar Antido, the head of security for Team Meralco now in Cebu, knew he would be away from his family on Christmas when he was told he would be part of the team that came here to help restore the stream.

His group, consisting of 25 linemen, three coordinators and an emergency response team, arrived in Cebu on December 18. Another team of 11 arrived on December 23.

Antido, who has worked at Meralco for 26 years, said he also missed his daughter’s 18th birthday because he had to travel to Cebu.

“I’m sad to be away from my family, but we have to work,” he said. “My family is already used to it.

Henry Macaso, an entrepreneur’s team leader from Davao Light, was with a group of 28 people who were sent to Cebu to help.

He said it was difficult to be away from family on Christmas, but they had to do it because their help was needed.

“We are ready to help because, God forbid, we might be the one who needs help. [in the future],” he said.

When their work was done, a Cebu lechon Christmas dinner awaited them.

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