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Electricity Goes Off Across Bahrain

August 23, 2004

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) _ Electricity went out across Bahrain on Monday, leaving people without air conditioning on a day when temperatures were expected to reach 130, snarling rush hour traffic and sending businesses and the U.S. Navy to their generators.

The cause of the outage was not immediately clear. But this hot, humid Gulf country, home to some 600,000 people, often experiences power supply problems in the summer.

The power went out just before 9 a.m. in the capital, hub of the main population center.

Police were deployed to major intersections to fill in for traffic lights, but cars still sat bumper-to-bumper throughout the city. Firefighters were dispatched to rescue people stuck in the elevators of high-rise buildings. Temperatures were fairly mild in the morning, but expected to soar by midday to the mid-50s when wind and humidity is factored in.

Managers at banks, hotels and the phone and mobile phone companies said they switched to their generators, but many said that was not enough to sustain all their regular services.

Lt. Bill Speaks, spokesman for the Bahrain-headquartered U.S. 5th Fleet, said the Navy experienced a ``short blip″ without power before turning to generators.

Reports from elsewhere in Bahrain indicated the outage was nationwide. Bahrain’s main oil refinery, which has its own power generator, was not affected.

Power consumption goes up drastically in Bahrain during the summer, when the strain on the system sometimes results in breakdowns or power outages.

Bahrain last month signed agreements for the construction of a new power plant to be equally owned by Belgium-headquartered Tractebel EGI and Kuwait-based Gulf Investment Corp. The plant, expected to be working at full capacity by mid 2007, was to produce 950 megawatts per day, meeting one-third of the power requirements of the country.

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