In April this year, 30 persons were feared dead in Calabar when a high tension wire fell on a viewing center. This tragic incident and much more reveal the inherent dangers high tension wires pose. Sunshine Herald visited two communities of Kajola and Aule where shops, houses, and roads are constructed under high tension with the risk of being electrocuted should the power lines fail.
Aule community is located in the heart of the city with a thick population whereas Kajola is located in the outskirt of the city but nonetheless with a population filled with predominantly working-class citizens.
As Aule keeps expanding, the power line area that used to be a forest is fast becoming a hub.
Typically, in the area surrounding the overhead lines it is dangerous to risk interference; e.g. flying kites or balloons, using ladders or operating machinery but residents around this area have openly flaunted this.
These communities predominantly occupied by store and shop owners and artisans who spend between 12-14 hours under the high tension carrying out daily activities including welding, furniture works, local restaurants among others.
A deafening buzzing noise from the high tension
In a bid to avoid electrocution, they have been disconnected from power from the government but many of the shop owners have resolved to use generators. Some of the residents, who spoke with Sunshine Herald under anonymity, confirmed the terrifying sounds generated by the high tension cables.
Asked if they were not disturbed by these sounds, a resident who sells bean cake directly under the high tension wire at Kajola community responded, "O ti mo wa lara (we are used to it)."
"When it is raining, you will be hearing the high tension wires as it makes a whirring sound and people will be passing under it with nothing happening as a result," she said.
She continues, "When it is really sunny, it makes intense whirring and it is always really loud on the roof and we hear this in the house. It makes sounds like something is being fried."
In an account by another resident in the Aule area who remained anonymous, "the noise from the wire sounds as if they are frying something."
While recalling an occurrence when the power line dropped, the middle-aged woman narrated, "One fell off last year. As the wire dropped, all the water dried up. We were here then. It was rain that caused it. The wind blew heavily."
"The people around here even knew it was going to fall. But it wasn't the one that does not hear control. If it were to be those ones that sink into the earth, many people would have turned into ashes."
High tension lines are routinely operated at voltages exceeding 765,000 volts between conductors, with even higher voltages possible in some cases.
Even 120 Volts lines can transmit hundreds of amperes, enough to cause a serious accident.
In the area surrounding overhead lines, it is dangerous to risk interference; using ladders of operating machinery.
Overhead high tension wires as we have in these communities do not have insulation and contact with them can lead to electrocution in seconds stopping the heart and lungs and in turn destroying the nervous system and brain.
Consequently, the victim suffers severe internal injuries as the current passes through the body.
The possibility of a non-contact electrocution is technically inevitable. High currents can flow through the ground from fallen wires, fog, smoke, precipitation and wet soil can increase the distance the electricity flows; this alone makes power lines even more dangerous.
At Aule, some of the residents explained that they feel shocked when holding some objects, even an umbrella.
A DEFIANT PEOPLE
Sunshine Herald gathered that the government, at different times, instructed them to evacuate the areas under high tension but they have remained defiant. On one of the occasions, caterpillars were brought in the night but the area was reconstructed after a while.
A store owner who sells mattress at a distance and pleaded anonymously said, "They have been sent away but they have refused to listen. The government brought caterpillars to demolish their stores and houses after giving them notice but they still come back to construct stores, houses and this has been on for a while now."
At Aule, a woman who sells roasted food directly under the wire pointed out that the government, at different times, instructed them to evacuate the area but have since remained defiant to these orders.
"The government pursued us. They don't want us to stay here at all. They have even told us to leave here but we don't have a place to stay," said a woman who operates a local restaurant.
Findings revealed that traders and shop owners usually do not stay in their shops during rainy season–they find it uncomfortable staying in their shops because they know that it is a dangerous place.
SOON TO BE CONVICTED OF IGNORANCE
Although, most residents in these communities confirmed to Sunshine Herald that they never had any cases of electrocution from the power lines but they obviously are ignorant of the risks in staying close to a power line.
To avoid the avoidable before it wreaks havoc in these communities, there is need to remove structures constructed under high tension wires so that an end will be put to loss of lives that could have easily been prevented by taking the right actions to forestall irrelevant and painful occurrences which occur around our environments.