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Iraqis face new kind of power problem
by Staff Writers
Karbala, Iraq (AFP) Aug 22, 2011

Iraqis are used to severe electricity shortages, but residents of the central holy city of Karbala have a new kind of power problem: an electricity tower in the middle of a street.

Authorities opened a new street in the Sayed Jowda area of Karbala in mid-July but left the electricity tower, which dates to the 1980s, in place, forcing motorists to drive around it.

"There is no doubt that the tower is dangerous to drivers -- that's why we hung banners to warn the people that there is a tower in the middle of the street," said Major Najem Abdullah, a spokesman for Karbala traffic police.

Sattar Abdul Hussein, a spokesman for Karbala province's electricity department, said the tower, which is 30 metres (98 feet) high and has a five-metre-wide (16-foot) base, receives power from a station east of the city, and transfers it to another that is south of the city.

Provincial governor Amal al-Din al-Har said the tower could not be removed until October, as shifting it would require cutting off electricity to the city for four days.

Karbala residents do not receive much power from the grid anyway -- just one hour of power followed by five without, for a total of four hours a day.

Iraq's entire electricity network -- from generation plants to hub stations and transmission lines -- took a beating during the 1980-88 war with Iran, the 1991 Gulf War, more than a decade of UN sanctions that followed, and finally the US invasion in 2003 and the insurgent attacks that came after.

Earlier this year, Iraqis demonstrated across the country over a lack of improvement in daily life, while last summer many took to the streets to protest against poor provision of mains power as the mercury topped 50 degrees Celsius and many homes were unable to power fridges and air conditioners.

Current electricity production and imports total about 7,000 megawatts, with demand around twice as much, leaving residents to turn to private generators to supplement the few hours of daily government grid power they receive.

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