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Official: Sabotage of power grid 'rampant'
By Ma Lie in Xi'an, Fu Jing and Guan Xiaofeng in Beijing (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-06-15 05:49

Sabotage of China's electricity supply network is "rampant" in some regions, a top official has said.

National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) Vice-Minister Zhang Guobao made the comments following the cutting of wires in Shaanxi Province on Monday.

A sabotage attempt against the local power supply cut service to 80,000 customers, sparking heightened efforts to safeguard China's electricity network from future outages.

According to Zhao Zhimin, director of the Power Supply Section of the Weinan Power Supply Bureau, Monday's incident took place in Huayin, a city under Weinan's jurisdiction in eastern Shaanxi in Northwest China.

"Thieves cut off the high-tension wires and one of the wires fell onto the highway underneath," Zhao said. "The fallen wire was caught on a passing tanker truck, pulling down seven steel towers."

Traffic was halted for 9 hours, local police said.

Local power suppliers and police rushed to make repairs, "but it will at least take 10 to 15 days to complete the repair work and restore the proper power supply," Zhao said.

Direct economic losses from the incident have been estimated at 1.3 million yuan (US$156,000).

Local police are investigating the case but so far there have been no reports of any arrests.

The power cut has renewed the focus on China's strained electricity network, with officials working to prevent blackouts, whether brought about by sabotage or natural causes such as storms or earthquakes.

Authorized by the State Council, the NDRC instructed power plants and transmission companies yesterday to work together to take precautions against possible outages.

"We should learn lessons from the massive blackouts in Russia, the United States and Canada and avoid power outages," NDRC Vice-Minister Zhang said yesterday at an urgently-called meeting.

He added that besides the losses of power from natural causes, sabotage of the power grid system was "rampant in some regions."

One naturally caused outage occurred around Spring Festival this year, when the grid in Central China's Hunan Province was hit by its most severe winter storms since 1954.

In Dingfeng Village in the province's Xiangtan County, lines were covered by a layer of ice 7 or 8 centimetres thick, causing about 80 per cent of the utility poles and towers to fall down, resulting in a widespread blackout.

It took about one month for service to be restored to some areas.

In neighbouring Hubei Province, freezing temperatures coupled with flooding destroyed nearly all the electricity facilities in Wufeng County, causing a six-day blackout for 200,000 customers.

Because the threat of further incidents always exists, power networks for airports, subways, hospitals and other public facilities should be checked immediately and a standby power supply should be prepared in case accidents occur, Zhang said.

He also asked local governments and grid and power companies to set up a rapid-response procedure for accidents and for exercises to be organized to improve awareness of power grid failures.

Zhang said that although some parts of the network are worn out and cannot be improved because of financial considerations, "generally speaking, China's grid networks work well, but hidden troubles still exist."

(China Daily 06/15/2005 page2)

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