Snow, cold and no electricity on Ithaca - Day 4 and counting

Monday 22nd January - ???? 2006

Misery is always more bearable in company, so the local bars facilitate a little bonding in misery by staying open with candle light.  The drinks run free as the night sky covers Ithaca in black.  Maki from Margarita Café Bar smokes up his joint with locals at loose ends and gives them a place to sit out of the cold, not that it's much warmer in the bar, Maki took the Cafes' heater home to warm up his family. Cheers to you too Maki!

Day 3, the roads are more dangerous.  The snow is turning to ice and making the trip north to south and vice versa, becomes too dangerous at night. At Yiannis Taverna in Stavros, the word is out that at the Kapi in Vathy, 6pm, the Ithaca Council is having a meeting to discuss a plan of action. Unfortunately this news doesn't travel far outside of Yiannis Taverna.  As I head towards Vathy to attend this Council meeting along with other interested parties, we notice Vathys' street lights below. Hopes were high that the power failure had resolved, but to the dismay of all, it seems the lights were turned on for the visiting News Media Mega TV.  Still no electricity, but at least recognition that Ithaca was suffering.

Mega Boys for a Mega Problem

The concerned, the angry and the Council honchos tried to discuss and solve the issue of electricity, or in this case, the lack of it, but instead, aggressive debates ensued as political manoeuvring and testosterone pumped, ego propping, muddied the clarity of the issue. In all fairness, there are serious issues that Ithaca needs to face along with the problem of secure electricity, but blame and innuendo at this time, only serve to confuse the issue rather than find a solution for it.  Some speakers raised valid points about the lack of information coming from Ithaca Council for the community of Ithaca. The Council could have set the community at ease on the first day with the knowledge they were doing all in their power to resolve this crisis, but unfortunately, the Council was in the dark too. The most spoken phrase through - "What can we do?  What can we do?"  Well, organizing a generator for the island would have been a start. It's ludicrous to keep an entire island without electricity in below freezing temps for days on end. The community would have appreciated a few hours of electricity through the day, even if they couldn't have it all day.  In-between the accusations and insults, a suggestion made by Alexandros Taflambas to firstly refuse to pay the next power bill was cheered by many, compensation should be sought.  Mr. Taflambas noted that Ithaca has suffered at the incompetent hands of DEH for many, many years.  This Power Out is just one in a long line suffered by the community of Ithaca, and although this current problem will be solved in time, we should look into other means of powering the island in times of need. It was disappointing that the representative of Platrithia didn't make an appearance

at the meeting, nor did the representatives of Frikes and Kioni, although Captain Dionisis of Kioni was there in his role as Council member.  Dimitris, Representve for Stavros, openly showed his rage with a phone call demanding electricity to the northern villages, considering that Vathy was allocated some.  His screams echoed through the Kapi and had everyone sitting to attention, a little embarrassed at the open display of aggression, but also pleased. It's fair to say that the Council was in no position to inform its' community of the problem, as it itself, was not informed of the problem by DEH. It was clear everyone wanted the same result, power for the island, unfortunately the means to that result took different and conflicting routes. The vice Mayor took the chair in the absence of the Mayor, who was elsewhere, and tried to control the outbursts as well as answer questions and explain the Councils position, but as  politics has been known to get in the way of a good idea, after an hour or so, it was clear that our electricity issue was taking second place to 'the shouting matches' and it was time to leave. 

As the remnants of the Ithacan Siberia pile up on the road sides of Lefki, day 4 revealed a little light at the end of this dark tunnel.  Army generators are brought into Cephalonia to power both Cephalonia and Ithaca. A few hours of emergency power turned into an entire day and night and had the community breathing easy again, but the crisis is not over.  Day 5 sees another black-out til late afternoon, when the generators were once more fed into the Ithaki grid around 4.30 pm, and so it will continue into day 6, 7 and then, so assures DEH, both islands will be fully powered by the extra army generators ferried in on the 28th January, for the period of time it takes DEH to install new Pylons across Cephalonia.

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Once this crisis hit the news, and we all know how Greek news really bites hard and long into a story, a bit like a raging bulldog who doesn't loosen his jaw on a limb until his teeth hit the bone, DEH didn't have a chance to escape with more excuses and fob-offs. DEH is now, not only pressured by an obscure community in the Ionian, but by the full force of every TV station and radio station in Greece, exposed not only in Greece, but overseas also, and as DEH is government owned and run, the government can ill-afford bad publicity in the international arena. Good to see that even political ego-tripping has its' upside.

It's been a difficult 5 days of cold and extreme discomfort, but now there is an end in sight, thanks to Ithacans who won't take no for an answer and tv news that has flogged this issue with all the passion they are famous for. The casualties of this DEH crisis are of course - 1. The Ithacan and Cephalonian community who have woken in freezing temperatures to a cold house, no running water or toilets that flush, limited, if any cooking facility, food that is spoiling, to a labour and stress filled day of living without electricity trying to feed their children and care for the old, of chopping wood and bucketing water from the well, days with no shower, no mobile phones, no means of accessing news via television or radio, not to mention the financial outlay of thousands of euros for gas heating and generators that came to late due to the excessive demand.  2. Businesses in the region, big and small, suffering large financial losses, 3. Electrical appliances and equipment that the power surges of impromptu electricity ruined, and 4. and this one is deserved - The cocky attitude of DEH directors who think keeping a community in the dark has no consequences.


Day 6 - Sunday 29th January 2006

DEH gave us electricity while we were asleep and turned it off just in time for breakfast.  Locals continue to struggle through the days, grateful for some electricity here and there.  Maria from Margarita Café in Stavros, prepares sweets ready for the next time Ithaca gets power.  Those who can, head outside, where the temps are milder than in their houses. Day 6 of the Power Out is a little warmer and that's a relief to many. Kosma from the corner shop in Stavros with his friend Kimmi the Butcher ,pass the morning hours with a chat while Ithakis Post Master, Pavlo, and Kosta from the Stavros Supermarket, head to Soris for a coffee.

The word on the street is that there will be electricity around noon, and that from now on it will be regular again, except for next Tuesday when there will be another cut.  Ithacas information is staggered and unofficial.  The truth is no one really knows what's going on. A little rumour, a little hearsay, a little from a news broadcast, a little from the Council.  We piece together what we can and try to organize ourselves to get through.

Above Antenna News Reporter Yiannis P. arrived on the island and went to the villages to get the real story of  Ithakis struggle.  He wasted no time in getting to the root of the misery by visiting old people who are frail and unable to sustain themselves under these horrid conditions. Dimitri from Laertis Fruit Market, was just one of the locals eager to give his story.  He has 2 young children now ill from the cold. Platrithias Council Member, Riggos, showed Yianni the areas in most need, by taking him around the island, introducing him to Ithacans who have no means of getting information or looking after themselves without electricity. During a break, Yianni sat and spoke with the locals gathered around him at Soris Way in Stavros.

It's hard to believe that in Cephalonia, there are people even worse off than here.  They've had no electricity at all. The electricity Ithaki has received has been given ad hock, but it is better than nothing.    A little here and a little there.  We never know when it's coming or when it's getting cut off again. People not living under these conditions have suggested that 'It shouldn't be that hard to do without electricity.  After all, Ithaca coped quite well without it in the 50's'  Easy to say from the comfort of a warm apartment.  Yes, Ithaca did cope quite well in those days, but then every house had a fireplace and a wood stove, nowadays, people have central heating and reverse cycle air-conditioning, we have electronic checkouts at the supermarket and internet banking. Ithaca is no longer set up for primitive existence.

Last night, Ithaca saw for the first time, the condition of the pylons that lay mangled, twisted and broken across Cephalonia, when we could safely turn our television sets. Some reports say that besides the 18 or so pylons, there were another 80 poles that also came down. We didn't have a hurricane, it was just a strong wind.  These pylons and poles should withstand an 8 - 10 force wind. DEH tried its' best to keep the damage a secret for the first few days and in the process, alienated its' customers and encouraged a community into great anxiety and illness.  There is now a team of around 150 technicians working on restoring the grid, and we, like the rest of Greece will be getting our information from the News again, as the DEH faults telephone line is of little help. Let's hope that the reports of regular power from now on are correct, because Ithacans and neighbour Cephalonia are in no position to withstand any more.

As some locals are worried that this looks bad for Ithaca and tourism on the island, I would like to assure everyone that this problem was not caused by Ithaca. Ithaca looks after its' community and the Council, once it had information on the DEH problem, was there to assist anyone in need.This is a DEH problem.  What Ithaca could do, so the island isn't at the mercy of electricity coming from Cephalonia, is to purchase its' own generator, so that in circumstances such as these, the people of Ithaca and those visiting ithaca on holiday, can feel secure, but the cost of this is around 300,000 euro, a cost not easily covered by this small Ithacan Community, so maybe it still ends up in the hands of DEH. The back up should probably be something they should organize if the problem arises from them.