Crane driver mistake plunges Vietnam into darkness

  • 23 May 2013
  • From the section Asia
Electricity workers in Vietnam
Image caption Vietnam's electricity network is notoriously fragile

A mistake by a crane operator caused a 10-hour blackout over about a third of Vietnam and parts of neighbouring Cambodia, officials say.

Vietnamese state electricity company EVN said in a statement that the blackout happened on Wednesday after the operator knocked a tree down.

It fell onto the main north-south high voltage power transmission line.

Electricity supplies in Ho Chi Minh City and in Phnom Penh were affected before power was restored on Thursday.

About 22 of Vietnam's 63 provinces were blacked out, officials say, and most of the south-east of the country was without power.

Officials say it was one of the worst power cuts in Vietnam's history.

Vietnam provides Cambodia with about 40% of its national electricity supplies.

Local media in Phnom Penh said that the entire length of the city's popular riverfront area lay in darkness, as crowded restaurants served tourists by candlelight and water supplies - that rely on electricity - began to dry up.

Correspondents say that the outage caused scores of garment and seafood factories to close and exposed the fragility of Vietnam's power grid.

In addition there were heavy traffic jams in many other cities and towns as traffic lights failed.

Traffic jams

Vietnamese state-owned newspaper Thanh Nien reported that the incident cost EVN $700,000 (£465,000) in lost revenue.

It is widely acknowledged that Vietnam's power generation sector needs modernising.

Last year the chairman of the independent US federal agency Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) pushed for infrastructure deals worth $1.5bn related to satellite communication, thermal power and renewable energy.

EVN has a power supply monopoly in Vietnam, but has been criticised for frequent power cuts in many parts of the capital Hanoi as temperatures soar to 40C.

Last year the EVN chairman was fired for enormous losses incurred by the company.

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