Travellers suffered for around seven hours at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) in Dhaka yesterday due to a power outage and the resulting water crisis.
People at the domestic terminal were the worst-sufferers as there was no backup power system, said sources at the airport.
A top airport official said it was the first time in 25-30 years power and water supply disruptions caused sufferings on such a scale.
“There was a total power blackout for 20-25 minutes disrupting normal activities at the airport,” said Tanvir Hossain, assistant director of Probasi Kalyan Desk, HSIA.
Talking to The Daily Star, HSIA Director Group Captain Abu Sayeed Mehboob Khan said two things were to blame for the unwanted incident.
“First of all, Dhaka Electric Supply Company (Desco) mistakenly cut the power line of the airport while disconnecting illegal power lines at the railway slum in Kawla Bazar area on Saturday night,” he said.
“As the alternative power system at the airport took over immediately, we didn’t suffer any outage,” he said. “But when the alternative underground power line was severed during repair of the underground water line, we noticed the total incident.”
The airport generators took over immediately after the second power line went down, but they could not support the entire air-conditioning system, causing heating up of many parts including outbound passenger terminal-1 and terminal-2.
Top officials of the Civil Aviation Authority including its chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman and HSIA Director Mehboob Khan took prompt actions to maintain smooth flight operations of domestic and international airlines.
“Despite interruption in power and water supply, there was no disruption in flight operations,” said Mehboob.
He said the scanners, air traffic control tower, luggage belts and immigration process were kept functional by the generators, so no international flight was affected.
He also said that following prompt and hectic efforts by Dhaka Electric Supply Authority and Dhaka Wasa, power and water supplies were restored at 3:15pm.
Aviation Security Director Wing Commander Obeidur Rahman said travellers had troubles due to the incident.
Several outbound passengers and travellers, especially women and children, suffered immensely due to a high temperature inside the airport as only a few air conditioners were in operation at the vast floor of terminal-1 and terminal -2.
“My son sweated continuously and fell sick due to the heat. At one point, I came out of the terminal to cool him off,” said outbound passenger Rashida Begum.
A number of passengers informed The Daily Star that the water supply was kept totally suspended due to the sudden power outage.
Wishing anonymity, a Singapore-bound passenger said it is unfortunate that such an incident would happen at the country’s prime airport and main gateway for foreigners.
“Sufferings at the domestic terminal were unbearable as the air-conditioning system went down,” said Anisur Rahman, who was headed for Barishal.
A Barishal-bound Biman Bangladesh Airlines flight, which was scheduled to fly at 11:00am, got delayed by two hours following the outage, he said.
But Obeidur Rahman said the delay occurred because Biman aircraft were not available at that time.
Many domestic and international travellers posted their experience and observations on social media.
“Can you think of a situation like this at an international airport anywhere in the world?” asked one in his Facebook post.
“People of this country have endless patience! Otherwise, would people sweat since 8 in the morning at the main airport of a country?” wrote one Motaher Hossain Masum.