Wide­spread power blackout hits Libya

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

TRIPOLI: West­ern Libya was plunged into dark­ness over the week­end as a blackout al­ready af­fect­ing the south spread to the cap­i­tal Tripoli and other ma­jor cities, the na­tional power com­pany said.

The blackout ex­tended from Libya’s west­ern bor­der with Tu­nisia to the city of Ajd­abiya, nearly 900km to the east, na­tional power com­pany Gecol said.

The elec­tric­ity grid had col­lapsed be­cause a num­ber of cities in west­ern Libya had re­jected terms for shar­ing out power cuts, it said.

It was the first time in re­cent me­mory that the whole of the west­ern re­gion, where most of Libya’s 6.3 mil­lion in­hab­i­tants live, ex­pe­ri­enced a power cut.

Tripoli and other cities in the west and south have been plagued by re­peated and lengthy power cuts for months, and the south has been suf­fer­ing a general blackout for at least the past four days.

Gecol did not men­tion the clo­sure nearly a week ago of a gas pipe­line in Zawiya, but it had ear­lier warned that the stop­page could trig­ger a general blackout if diesel fuel tem­po­rar­ily sup­ply­ing the west­ern city’s power plant ran out.

A Reuters re­porter said that on Satur­day evening the only lights vis­i­ble in Tripoli were in the cen­tral Mar­tyrs’ Square.

All petrol sta­tions had been closed. The per­sis­tent power cuts in Tripoli have left some res­i­dents re­sort­ing to char­coal dur­ing un­usu­ally cold win­ter weather. Mains water sup­plies to the cap­i­tal have also been cut for sev­eral days.

Of­fi­cials have pre­vi­ously blamed the power cuts on tech­ni­cal prob­lems, dam­age from Libya’s low-in­ten­sity mil­i­tary con­flict, sab­o­tage, and dis­tor­tions to elec­tric­ity sup­ply caused by armed groups di­vert­ing scarce power to their own neigh­bour­hoods.

The power cuts have con­trib­uted to the fragility of a UN-backed gov­ern­ment that was es­tab­lished in Tripoli last March but has failed to unite ri­val fac­tions or halt a slide in liv­ing stan­dards.

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