07/02/2012 01:38
Once every few months, IEC has been cutting electricity it supplies to Yesud Hama’ala to fix electrical system problems.

Residents of Yesud Hama’ala, a moshav north of Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee), fear the repercussions of an eight-hour, community-wide cessation of power scheduled to occur on Monday during peak hours of summer heat.

Once every few months, Israel Electric Corporation has been cutting the electricity it supplies to the moshav for about six to eight hours, to fix electrical system problems there, a statement from the community said. The most recent scheduled power outage lasted six hours on May 29.

Among the 3,000 residents of the moshav are many elderly people on oxygen tanks and dialysis machines that require electricity, as well as many children who will suffer from extreme heat, according to the community. The forecast for Monday is 36-degrees Celsius, and staying inside confined buildings without air conditioning will be problematic, the statement said.

Although children face difficulties tolerating such heat, the Education Ministry did not agree to close down summer camps for the day, and children will attend camps despite the lack of power supply, the moshav said. Due to the electricity outages, however, the children will not be able to swim in the community’s pools, and camp counselors therefore requested water sprinklers from the local authority to keep the children mildly cool, according to the community.

Meanwhile, business owners have been forced to close during the power outage days, giving employees time off and receiving no compensation for the resultant damages, the statement said. The packing and cooling factories will in particular suffer damage on Monday, as it is the height of the summer fruit-picking season and business owners cannot afford the high cost of bringing in generators to operate their plants.

Despite many attempts to convince IEC to provide the moshav with generators – or any other type of technical assistance – to prevent the cessation of power for so many hours in a time period that is known to be hot, the company only agreed to provide generators to two community centers, the moshav said. This still does not provide a solution for elderly, immobile residents who have no one to care for them and cannot make it to the two centers, community members argued.

Some residents are calling for the privatization of IEC, while other have sent an official complaint to the State Comptroller’s Office. Still others claimed that IEC’s actions constitute “blatant discrimination [against] residents of the periphery, without a desire or willingness of the IEC, a government company, to find a fitting and appropriate answer for the residents for the duration of 8 hours – in the peak of heat, summer vacation of children and for the health of the elderly in the moshav.” During system upgrades in the country’s center, never have power supplies been cut for such an extended period of time, the residents said.

In response, IEC said it intends to make large-scale system upgrades to the region’s electrical system on Monday. Such work, the company said, serves to enhance and ensure the reliability of the power supply to customers. The purpose of Monday’s work is to upgrade the system in both Yesud and the surrounding region, according to IEC.

“In order to not disrupt the lives of residents over many days, the company coordinated a reinforced work crew to perform the work in one day,” a company statement said.

IEC stressed that the residents have known about the upcoming blackout for five weeks, extensive notices have been published throughout the region and in the last two weeks, updates have occurred over loudspeakers and direct notices throughout the community. In addition, the company has worked in coordination with the local council to find alternatives solutions for the day, including the allocation of two generators by the council to the hospital and a kindergarten, as well as another generator donated by a local shopping center, the statement said.

Residents who require life support, dialysis and other medical treatments must rely on alternative power supplies like generators and batteries, which they would also have to do in the case of even a one-hour, unexpected power outage, according to the company.

“IEC apologizes for the inconvenience and will do everything possible to finish the job as soon as possible and return the power supply to its customers,” the company said.