Hundreds of people living in Fereej Abdul Aziz off of B-Ring Road have been rendered effectively homeless this week after a power outage hit a six-building residential complex late Sunday evening.
Without electricity and water, several people living in the complex – which houses families and laborers – have reportedly fallen ill due to the heat, and some have been taken to the hospital.
Speaking to Doha News this afternoon, Khalid Sher, a Pakistani expat and a member of the Qatar Armed Forces who has lived in the complex for the past five years, said that the issue stemmed from a short-circuited electricity panel.
He said power in one of the buildings in the complex got cut off late Sunday evening, and some of the affected tenants tried to fix the damage themselves.
“They weren’t electricians, so I doubt they knew what they were doing. As they tried to fix it…I’m not sure what happened…but power supply to all of the other five buildings and some 10 to 12 shops on the other side, facing the main road, also got cut.”
The power outage comes at the peak of Doha’s summer, with temperatures reaching highs of 47C this week.
Without air conditioning, most residents have vacated their apartments and sought shelter in nearby hotels, and family and friends’ homes.
Others have been spending nights in their cars, said Sher, whose family has gone to stay with relatives.
Speaking to Doha News this afternoon, one Filipina tenant who returned briefly to her flat today said:
“The first day (Sunday night), we stayed in because we thought that the power supply would come back shortly. Two days later, and still nothing.”
The woman, along with her husband and mother-in-law, are now staying at her sister-in-law’s place in Al Sadd. Her brother-in-law, who lives in an adjacent apartment, has rented a hotel room to escape the heat.
According to her mother-in-law, who has lived in the apartment for over 20 years, such power outages are common during the summer.
“There’s no maintenance here. We have to pay for everything. But the rent is cheap – just QR6,500 for families – so we stay here. There’s no other choice,” she said.
According to the family, and several others who also spoke to Doha News, the lack of electricity also means that the water supply has become inaccessible.
“The water runs on a motor, which sends the water upstairs from a downstairs tank. Because the electricity got cut, the motor didn’t work, and the water has been (merely) pooling downstairs in the tank,” Sher said.
Residents in his building chipped in to buy a generator to kickstart the water motor, but at capacity, the system can only supply water for up to 10 hours a day.
“We barely washed our dishes, and did a bit of cooking, and the water had gone. It’s been a big difficulty,” the Filipina tenant said.
In a nearby building, several other tenants had tried to install a makeshift generator, but had neglected to include an exhaust system.
As a result, smoke and gasoline fumes spread throughout the building, and three people were taken to the hospital at around 5am this morning after suffering respiratory illnesses.
While families living the area have managed to find temporary shelter, some 280 men who live in one of the six buildings have had to instead bed down on roofs, cars or in their sweltering apartments.
“We have nowhere else to go. What can we do? If there were some (rich people) living here, this would have been fixed in an hour. It’s because we are poor and can’t say anything that it has taken so long,” said one worker who asked to remain anonymous.
Several other tenants said that they had taken to sleeping during the day in a nearby mosque or on the building’s roof during the night.
“There’s no water to bathe or wash our clothes, or cook, nothing,” said another resident.
It is still unclear why the power went out in the area, but several residents theorized that one of the panels stopped working because the electricity supply was overloaded.
Tenants said five of the buildings house families of four to five people per flat, but the sixth building has up to 20 people in each apartment, most of them construction workers.
According to Sher, Kahramaa officials arrived shortly after the outage to inspect the burned out panels, but said that the issue was the owner’s responsibility.
They shut down the power supply to minimize any additional damage before leaving the area. One Egyptian tenant said:
“Kahramaa is only responsible for connecting the lines and delivering the power. This maintenance work is the owner’s responsibility, so Kahramaa asked that the owners had to come down and handle it.
But it was the third day of Eid and people were busy that day, so the owners could only come by the next day.”
On Monday morning, the landlord and some technicians stopped by to begin repairing the electricity panel. However, according to Sher, companies that supply the needed materials and rent temporary generators were closed for Eid, so work was put on hold.
This afternoon, Doha News observed several technicians working to replace the short-circuited panels. Also, a large generator was brought in by laborers living in one building to supply power to their own flats.
“The generator is for just one that one building. The rest of us still have no electricity. I understand that it’s not Kahramaa’s (jurisdiction), but they should have helped us. They have the equipment and the generators. The least they could have done is set up a temporary generator, given that the usual companies that rent it were closed on Sunday and Monday.”
Kahramaa was not immediately available for comment, but did say over the weekend during a separate power outage that such problems were sometimes caused by unapproved electricity use.
Loss of business
The lack of power has also affected a row of nearby groceries, bakeries, and garages that run on the ground floor of one of the buildings, facing a main road.
Speaking to Doha News, an employee at the Al Khoulosathy restaurant and supermarket said:
“We’ve had to throw everything out. Things that were in freezers and refrigerators, fresh food, everything. Around QR10,000 worth of produce, milk, fish, chicken…we had to just throw out.”
Another shopkeeper who operates a nearby bakery said that he too had incurred at least QR10,000 in damages, since they have not generated any income in the past two days and have also had to dispose of ingredients.