Power outage in Bau, Lundu caused by underground cables damaged by contractor

A photo showing 33kV underground cable that were damaged by a contractor along the Bau-Lundu road.

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KUCHING, May 30: Sarawak Energy Bhd (Sarawak Energy) has reminded contractors to check for underground power cables prior to performing excavation and construction works on roads to avoid damaging underground power cables and causing unnecessary supply interruptions as well as to protect the safety of their workers and the public.

The company in a statement said the move is necessary to prevent underground power cables from being damaged and minimise electrocution risks.

It noted that recent excavation works by a third-party Pan Borneo Highway contractor has damaged 33kV underground cables which interrupted power supply to its customers along the Bau-Lundu Road on May 27.

The company had immediately deployed its technical team and successfully restored power supply to approximately 1,600 affected customers within an hour via alternative supply sources.

Cable repair works also commenced on the same day after the contractor at fault was issued with warning letters and stop-work orders.

A copy of the warning letters were also sent to the Ministry of Utilities Sarawak, Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), and the project owner for further action.

A photo showing 33kV underground cable that were damaged by a contractor along the Bau-Lundu road.

Meanwhile, Sarawak Energy Western Region regional manager Choo Min Chong said: “Fortunately, we have circuit breakers in place that cut off electricity supply when the 33kV underground cable was hit by the excavator, minimising electrocution risks to the vehicle operator and those working in the surrounding area.

“We take safety seriously, and we want the contractors to do the same. By issuing warning letters and extending copies to the relevant authorities, we want to ensure that contractors make safety their top priority when carrying out excavation works.

In cases like this due to their carelessness and poor attitude, all repair costs will be borne by the contractor responsible for the cable damage. In addition, we are working on taking legal action against the contractor,” he said in a statement.

Likewise, Sarawak Energy said drilling works carried out by third-party contractors caused a major power outage in Kapit earlier this month, disrupting supply to key facilities in the riverine town including Kapit Hospital and Water Treatment Plant from May 2 to 3.

Investigations revealed that a waterworks contractor had damaged a 33kV underground cable near Country Heights and accidentally drilled the major feeder line supplying electricity to the district while performing Horizontal Direct Drilling (HDD) works.

Sarawak Energy said supply to the affected areas was restored after three days on May 3 due to extensive repairs required and poor weather conditions.

Despite continuous reminders and notifications on the requirement to check with the utility company on the presence of underground cables, these reminders have largely gone unheeded and cases of supply interruptions caused by construction works by third-party contractors were frequent, causing inconvenience to affected customers.

Sarawak Energy disclosed that more than 550 cases related to cable damage by third-party excavations have been recorded across Sarawak since 2018, with losses amounting to RM4.7 million.

So far this year, a total of 71 cases with more than RM400,000 in damages were recorded.

The utility company pointed out that contractors involved in damaging underground cables will be held responsible for the cost of repair and revenue loss due to the damage.

Choo added: “Coming in contact with supply cables is a safety hazard to contractors and their workers as it may result in injuries caused by electrocution and even loss of lives.

“It will also cause supply interruption to residents in the area and the resulting damage usually requires extensive repair works which results in prolonged interruptions. At the end of the day, we want everyone to go home safely which is why safety is our top priority,” Choo said.

Hence, contractors are urged to comply with the Electricity Ordinance, the Electricity Rules 1999, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 when carrying out works within the vicinity of high-tension cables or other electrical infrastructure to ensure safety and health of all persons involved.

To notify of works near electrical infrastructure requiring Sarawak Energy’s technical advice, contractors may contact Sarawak Energy’s 24/7 Customer Care Centre at 1300-88-3111 or email customercare@sarawakenergy.com. — DayakDaily