PHILIPPINES - Update...Massive Outage Traced to Malfunction of Transmission Line...Domino Effect Shuts Down All Power Plants : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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TUESDAY April 11, 2000 Title: Total Blackout Hits Mindanao Amid Clashes

ILIGAN - A power outage blacked out Mindanao and left 16 million people without electricity yesterday amid fighting between government forces and Muslim secessionist rebels.

The fault was tracked to a transmission line here in the Lanao region, but repairs were hampered by fighting between the military and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The military and utility officials were not ruling out sabotage, and said power should be restored in many areas by early evening. The outage was recorded at about 3:20 p.m.

We estimate that by 6:00 to 6:30 p.m. (1000-1030 GMT) we will be able to fully restore power in Mindanao, barring any hitches, said Venusto Hamoy, transmission group manager of the state-run National Power Corp. (Napocor).

Power was restored to some metropolitan areas in Cotabato and Iligan within an hour as the government ordered private power firms to supply emergency electricity to Napocor.

There was a total blackout of the Mindanao grid, Manuel Conti, area manager for Napocor said.

The malfunction was traced to the Agus 2-Abaga transmission line near the town of Balo-i and there was a domino effect that shut down all the islands power plants, he added.

Mindanao is home to about 16 million people including a large Muslim minority. The military is fighting two Muslim rebellions in the area and outlying islands.

A power outage blamed on swarms of jellyfish clogging up the cooling systems of a coal-fired plant in the northern Philippines blacked out Luzon last December, leaving 40 million people out of the national total of 75 million without electricity for one night.

We cannot rule out the possible involvement of the MILF in the power blackout, Conti said.

It was a systems failure, said southern Philippines military spokesman Colonel Hilario Atendido.

We do not know what was the cause, but we are checking reports of possible MILF involvement.

The MILF is the larger of the two rebel movements in the south.

MILF spokesman Mohaqer Iqbal said: We have no program to sabotage power lines.

But he said there has been heavy fighting since Saturday in at least three towns in the Lanao area, and anything can still happen.

Conti said the fighting around the towns of Balo-i and Munai led to a military quarantine.

The military is preventing Napocor engineers and linemen from inspecting the area, he said.

"We do not know if there were power lines toppled in the area, or if there was indeed sabotage. We are closely coordinating with the military to secure and protect major power stations in the south against terrorism and sabotage.

Military spokesman Col. Rafael Romero said in Manila yesterday that the clashes have left 33 people dead including 28 MILF rebels and 18 soldiers wounded.

But Iqbal downplayed the report, saying the rebel count is two MILF members dead and three wounded.

The MILF has an estimated 15,000 fighters. A second Muslim secessionist group, the Abu Sayyaf, is holding 31 civilians including a Roman Catholic priest and 18 students hostage in the southern island of Basilan.

Conti said Napocor will attempt to secure a military clearance to overfly the site by helicopter on Tuesday morning. Copyright 1999 by The Freeman. All Rights Reserved.


-- (, April 11, 2000

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