x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Power outages ripple through Sharjah

The blackouts started on Thursday night and residents now fear a reprise of the hot and dark summer of 2009.

A worker uses a candle in a store in Sharjah's Industrial Area 1 after a power failure.
A worker uses a candle in a store in Sharjah's Industrial Area 1 after a power failure.

SHARJAH // Residents and businesses in Sharjah are again gripped by power cuts, and fear a rerun of last year's hot, dark summer. The blackouts started on Thursday, with no power in Industrial Areas 1, 3 and 12 from around 9am until 6pm. In Abu Shagara, a residential area, several homes had no power for three hours in the morning. Al Nahda and Al Qassimia areas also reported power cuts.

The blackout continued into the weekend in Industrial Area 1, with residents reporting that they had no power between 10am and 5pm and again from 10am yesterday. Officials from the Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (Sewa) did not respond to inquiries yesterday or on Thursday. A customer service representative said on Thursday that the blackouts had been caused by a breakdown in the network. She appealed for residents' patience until the problem is resolved.

"We hope power would be restored to the affected areas in the evening," she said, "but it will continue being on and off for the next two days as the engineers repair the network." Last summer, Sewa blamed the crisis on a breakdown at a major power plant, the result of high summer demand. There were chaotic scenes on Thursday at a light-controlled junction between Al Khan and Al Nahda, which police partially closed because of the blackouts.

Problems also were noted at junctions in Industrial Areas 12 and 13, where some residents complained of long delays. Mohammed Saeed, a student at Sharjah University, said his journey home through Industrial Area 13, which normally takes five minutes, took more than an hour. "No one seems to have enough patience to let others go first," he said. "All motorists from all roads just enter into the junction, blocking it completely."

Business owners were quick to start counting their losses. Jassim Ali, 40, a Bahraini garage owner in Industrial Area 1, said the cuts had forced him to turn away four big customers, worth about Dh4,000. "We only want the authorities to tell us in advance that we shall not be having power for some time." Then, he said, people could find alternative power sources. "They should have some good communication with the public because even though Sewa is a public company, we pay for its services."

There have also been fears that food could spoil without refrigeration. However, Sultan al Muallah, the director general of Sharjah Municipality, said there was no need for concern. "We have created awareness among all shopkeepers to throw away bad food," he said. "Besides, we have a big team of inspectors to reach out to all areas and ensure that healthy foodstuffs are on shelves." Afdhar Khan, a worker at Madina supermarket in Industrial Area 1, said his boss had ordered staff to discard unsafe food and drinks.

Abdrahman Mohammed, who works in Kanou grocery in Industrial Area 1, said he would rather lose money than sell rotten food, as that would damage his shop's reputation. "Every time the power goes, I lose more than Dh2,000," he said. "All my refrigeration stops working and I have to throw away a lot of things." ykakande@thenational.ae