Lebanon plunged into darkness ‘for days’ as country runs out of electricity

Country’s two largest power stations closed due to fuel shortage, official says

Andy Gregory
Saturday 09 October 2021 16:50
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UN urges Lebanon to implement reforms as extreme poverty grows

Lebanon has been plunged into darkness by a power outage expected to last for several days.

Not for the first time in recent months, the country’s two largest power stations – al Zahrani and Deir Ammar – have been forced to shut down, reportedly due to fuel shortages.

The plants’ separation from the national grid saw energy production drop to below 200 megawatts, forcing a collapse, according to local reports. The country requires around 3,000 megawatts, the former energy minister said previously.

State-run electricity firm, Electricite du Liban, is scrambling to rebuild the national grid manually, amid the absence of the national control centre which was destroyed by the Beirut port blast, broadcaster LBCI reported.

A government official told Reuters: “The Lebanese power network completely stopped working at noon today, and it is unlikely that it will work until next Monday, or for several days.”

Lebanon has been racked by a wave of crises impacting all aspects of daily life since its economy began to collapse in 2019, with poverty, unemployment and inflation soaring amid vast discontent at a political system long accused of corruption and mismanagement.

Supplies of fuel, electricity, water and medicines are among the necessities which have been affected in the crisis, which the World Bank describes as one of the worst economic collapses in modern history.

Residents have reported being limited to as little as one or two hours of electricity per day, if they receive any at all, while businesses and hospitals have been forced to scale back operations or shut down completely.

In a country which has been prone to rolling blackouts for decades, some citizens often rely on private generators. But fuel shortages and soaring costs have rendered this lifeline an impossibility for many, whether seeking to purchase the necessary fuel legally or on the black market.

The official quoted by Reuters on Saturday suggested Electricite du Liban will seek to use the army’s fuel oil reserve to operate the power plants temporarily, but that will not happen anytime soon.

A senior employee at the energy company was cited by UAE-based newspaper The National as saying he was “shocked that people are shocked” at the news of the outage, adding: “We had warned about this before, we are out of fuel.”

Hassan Khalife, 50, who owns a small barbecue joint in Beirut, previously told Reuters: “During the [1975-1990] civil war, even with how horrible it was, there weren’t any power cuts.”

He added: “The state, which is supposed to take care of its people, is doing the opposite, it’s trying to humiliate us as much as it can.”

Last month, the United Nations pledged $10m to ease the fuel crisis, allocating the funds to keep water stations functioning and to help 65 hospitals and other medical facilities, many of which had been forced to reduce operations due to lack of fuel and electricity.

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