BAHRAIN, 24 August 2004 — Losses from a power outage that hit almost all of Bahrain yesterday were estimated in access of hundreds of thousands of dinars after factories, workplaces, financial institutions and telephone networks stopped working as technicians tried to fix the problem. Businesses came to a halt and a large number of private sector workers were asked to go home.
Some businessmen estimated that losses from halt of production ranged in the hundreds of thousands of dinars, but no exact figures were available.
The outage lasted about seven hours with police and security forces utilizing all available manpower to organize traffic on the streets after traffic lights stopped operating. Sources told Arab News that the General Directorate of Traffic, in addition to utilizing Ministry of Interior policemen and traffic officials who normally work inside the offices, also used civilians to control traffic.
Two deaths that resulted from traffic collisions were not linked to the outage and sources said that 30 accidents were reported during the morning hours, which is within the normal range of daily accidents in the kingdom.
Ambulance crews of the two major hospitals in the country suffered from an overload of calls and delays in responding to calls. But health officials said hospitals otherwise functioned normally.
Mobile phone services were badly affected as the networks crashed due to overload. Air traffic was not effected as Bahrain International Airport fell back on its backup generators. Factories came to a standstill and banks were forced to shut down.
Minister of Electricity and Water Abdullah ibn Salman Al-Khalifa told reporters there was a technical problem and that his ministry cannot guarantee there would be no more power outages.
He said the problem was caused by a sudden upsurge of demand of 400 megawatts from the Alba smelter that tripped the electrical network. “They are designed to shut down automatically when an overload occurs,” he said. “We have set up a technical committee to investigate the matter and it will report its findings in two weeks,” the minister added.
He said the government would not compensate those who were affected by the power outage, and that businesses should have power generators as backups.
No one from Alba was available for comment, but the company which has its own power plant had been praised in the past for contributing to help meet power shortages by offering some of its electrical production to the government’s electrical network.
Power was restored to most parts of the country by 7 p.m., but there were still areas with no electricity, and phone and Internet networks were working erratically.