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Seeing red over gas cut


by Kimberley Cummins

For many, Christmas is not Christmas without food.

On Christmas eve night as people across the island were busy cleaning, decorating their homes and preparing dishes for the traditional Christmas meals, some residents in areas of St. Thomas, St. Andrew and St. James were worried as to whether they would have anything to eat on Christmas day because they had no gas.

Residents said they only realised between 7:30 p.m. and 8:45 on Monday evening, with hams, turkeys and cakes in the ovens, they were not receiving their natural gas supply from the National Petroleum Corporation.

One of the affected customers from Church Gap, Hillaby in St. Thomas, who asked not to be anonymous, told Barbados TODAY that she only realised there was no gas because she could not smelling the three cakes she had placed in the oven to bake.

She said at first she thought it was her supply alone that had been disrupted, until she heard neighbours shouting to each other about the situation. With more than 20 families in Church Gap alone affected by the outage they said they called NPC’s emergency number to have the problem fixed.

“We made a call further up the road, further into St. Andrew, and they didn’t have gas; cakes are in the oven, ham … what are you going to do? People quarrelling and fretting, everybody want to know how them going to eat. We phoned and they [NPC] said the gas would be coming back on in an hour’s time, but they weren’t sure about the magnitude of the problem, and it was about [midnight].

“Electricity also went off in St. Andrew, so we thought there was a connection with the gas going and the electricity from the station at Greg Farm, but them morning come and we still didn’t have gas…

“Fortunately for me, we could get tea because we have an electric kettle but you can’t cook, so we get up, drink tea and went to church. We come back from church and gas still off. We called NPC and the guy said that a regulator was out and gas was coming back, but slowly. I asked him what time and he told me in the near future – you can imagine that? That could be two days down the road.”

The grandmother said the gas finally returned around 9 a.m. While meal time had to be adjusted luckily for her family, she said they were able to at least have breakfast because she was able to bake two sweet breads in the toaster oven and earlier on the previous day her mother baked a ham.

“Thank God, because Christmas isn’t Christmas without piece of ham on your plate,” she added.

Her brother, who lived next door, was however not that “lucky” because his gas came back on†after 3 p.m.

“You can imagine that if we weren’t next door he won’t have eaten. The staff were very good though because they were calling back and forth to make sure we had your gas and to make sure we were doing what you were supposed to do. Any ordinary day it would have been fine but this is Christmas…

“It only goes to show you that you prepare so much for one day, you sacrifice, you clean, you do everything that you have to for Christmas but on that day anything can happen which tells you it is just another day – the gas going out, even a death, anything can go wrong and you got to live with it. There is nothing you can do about it.

“It brings the reality of it that we have taken the Christ out of it and made it about the mas…; anything can happen on that day,” she said.

Efforts to ascertain the cause of the problem proved unsuccessful. Manager of Technical Operations at NPC, Roger Martindale, said it was a “technical matter” and for him to give out information an official request must be written.

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