Power plant razed
Generators restore the lights in Sanikiluaq

Malcolm Gorrill
Northern News Services

Sankiluaq (May 08/00) - Sanikiluaq residents have power, again.

A fire at the power plant there last Monday morning forced hundreds of residents to seek shelter at Nuiyak school that night.

It also sent Northwest Territories Power Corporation officials scrambling to restore power to the community.

Jobie Inooya, area operations supervisor for the Baffin Region at NTPC, explained that a portable 125-kilowatt generator was sent from Iqaluit Monday to Sanikiluaq.

This was used to provide power to the airport.

On Tuesday Hercules aircraft brought two more generators into town from Winnipeg and Fort Liard. Both were capable of producing 300 kilowatts.

Inooya said after the first generator was fired up Tuesday, power was restored to most residences.

"The hospital and the school have their own back-up generators, so we isolated those from the rest of the town and powered the town," Inooya said.

Inooya said that as of Friday morning the second generator was operating, allowing staff to take the 125-kilowatt engine offline (it will probably stay there as a back-up).

Reached Friday morning, Nuiyak school principal John Jamieson said things were "totally back to normal."

Jamieson said close to 300 people spent Monday night at the school and that residents were lucky the weather co-operated this week.

"The lowest it got down to was -6 or -8 that one night," Jamieson said.

"I know in my house, the temperature got down to 14 degrees inside the house. That was it. It was at 20 degrees when the fire started and 31 hours later it was at 14."

Jamieson said many residents helped battle the blaze, which started around 1:30 a.m.

"I got there at quarter after 5, and there were a lot of volunteers there."

Mayor Annie Amitook said residents have been "coping pretty good" since the blaze.

"The whole community was very calm. There were so many people volunteering to help," Amitook said. "Any community messages that we needed to pass around was done mostly house to house."

Mike Ferris, territorial director of EMO (Emergency Measures Organization), said Tuesday that no one was injured by the fire and that the cause was still under investigation.

"The physical power plant is a writeoff," Ferris said.

"They're just waiting for my investigative team to finish on the site, and the RCMP, so they can bulldoze what little is left."

Ed Picco, minister responsible for NTPC, spoke about the fire Tuesday.

"We've been working really hard, the Power Corporation and its employees, since they first got the call a day and a half ago," Picco said.

"They've done an excellent job," he said. "The NTPC staff here in Iqaluit worked overtime to locate these generators," he said.

"We don't have a total cost on replacing the equipment, but it's between $4 and $7 million. That's for everything, total costs. It's fully insured. There's a small deductible of $250,000."

Picco said extra staff were brought into the medical centre in Sanikiluaq and that patients who required a stable environment were medevaced out as a precaution.

The minister said Sanikiluaq residents have really come together in a moment of crisis.

Inooya, who visited Sanikiluaq Thursday, agreed.

"Everybody's doing OK down there, very good co-operation from the community. We didn't get any complaints at all."