Mayor: Saaremaa electricity network will not be fixed before Christmas

Restoring electricity connections in Saaremaa.
Restoring electricity connections in Saaremaa. Source: Margus Muld/ERR

Elektrilevi hopes to restore power to most of Saaremaa Tuesday evening, and all households on Estonia's largest island should have electricity back by the end of the week. However, work on restoring the island's entire electricity work will continue until at least Christmas, said Saaremaa Municipal Mayor Mikk Tuisk.

Tuisk told ERR that the damage to Saaremaa's electricity network resembled the effects of a war having been raged on the island. "We've got telegraph poles down, and the workmen here have a long, hard slog ahead of them," he said.

Tuisk said, that snow is continuing to fall on the island intermittently, but by Tuesday evening most customers are expected to have electricity back again.

"There will be some left (without) by tomorrow evening. Elektrilevi hopes that by the end of the week everyone will have the power back on, but their crews will, for the most part, remain here, as the reconstruction of the network will take until at least until Christmas, if not the New Year," he said.

According to Tuisk, the work is progressing at a decent pace, though there are a number of challenges that will need to be overcome. Conditions in the forest between electricity lines are proving to be difficult as many of the lines themselves have frozen. There are also large amounts of snow on the trees and a lot of points along the lines where faults have occurred and repairs are needed.

In some cases, there are lines with as many as 20 faults between two substations, so there is still a lot of work to be done.

Tuisk said, that in some apartment blocks on the island, the only means of keeping warm is through the use of portable electric heaters. In other cases, people are facing temperatures of between five and seven degrees inside their homes.

There are also issues with the water supply, and although generators can provide water on a temporary basis, they cannot do so permanently without causing blockages to occur in the sewerage system.

"People are freezing in some places, not to mention the increasing number of problems related to animals. Farms often have their own generators, but they can only manage for a couple of days," he said, adding that in some areas the electricity has been out since Wednesday. "In fact, we've got wall to wall problems, and quite a lot of them."

"We are in a bad spot. The one that has been hardest hit in the last few days, with high priority, is our 35-kilovolt line, which goes from Vääta through Kihelkonna and Lümanda out to Leis.  There are a large number of customers there and I know they are planning to rebuild it in the next couple of years," Tuisk said.

The new line will be 110-kilovolts, he explained, meaning that it cannot be buried underground and will instead be installed overhead. However, the line corridor will be widened.

According to the muncipal mayor, Elektrilevi has a simple choice: either bury the cables wherever possible, or do a much better job of maintaining line corridors to avoid trees falling onto them and ultimately causing power outages.

Tuisk weas unable to say how much damage the storm had caused in financial terms, or what costs companies on the island had incurred as a result. However, he did say, that affected companies would be able to start claiming damages from Elektrilevi.

The municipality itself, he said, has not been counting the money, but has simply lent out its generators and provided fuel to those who need it. Discussion regarding financial a settlement will come later.

"At the moment, Elektrilevi is not counting the money either," said Tuisk. "The rescue services have given us their equipment, and the police have also given us a lot," he continued, adding that no one has tried to delay making repairs in order to save costs.

As of 2.15 p.m. on Tuesday, 2,914 households in Saaremaa were without electricity.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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