Baghdad slowly getting more power

Friday, April 25, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Electricity is slowly returning to Baghdad after a three-week blackout, but engineers warned Thursday the capital won't be fully powered again until they get parts to repair transformers and power lines damaged in the war.

Baghdad is getting between 150-300 megawatts, a slight increase from the first trickle of power two days ago, Iraqi officials say. The lights went off in Baghdad in the first week of April as bombs fell. The United States denied targeting the power grid.

The city of 5 million usually needs between 1,000-1,200 megawatts this time of year. In east Baghdad, engineers at the electrical system's repair headquarters said they can't do much more until the United States delivers spare parts to repair cables and a substation damaged by bombing, and to fix transformers shot out during fighting.

Any parts the engineers had were stolen in the days of looting after the city fell to American forces.

"Without the parts, Baghdad will have a big gap between what is available and what is needed," engineer Manhal Abbas said at the Al-Mashtal repair headquarters.

Baghdad residents and the U.S. military have listed power as the capital's key need.

At a news conference by retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner in Baghdad, Maj. Gen. Carl Strock said the city should start to see more power soon because oil is now flowing in southern Iraq.

In the next day or two, 60,000 barrels a day will begin flowing in the north, as well as natural gas, which drives electric turbines for Baghdad, he said.

Because of the low power supply, many areas where the power grid is back up experience long periods of brownout because demand is exceeding supply.

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