More blackouts ahead as Lebanon generators starved of fuel

BEIRUT: The owners of private generators that provide a vital backup to Lebanon’s decrepit power grid have warned of their own cuts due to lack of fuel as the country’s economic crisis deepens.

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The national network run by Electriciti du Liban is prone to blackouts and in some areas only manages to provide power for two hours a day.

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That forces many Lebanese to pay a separate bill for a backup from neighbourhood generators run by private firms.

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With the Lebanese economy facing its worst crisis in a generation and the currency in freefall, private suppliers have warned they are struggling to secure enough fuel to keep running.

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The crisis is so acute that on Wednesday the lights went out in a building belonging to the foreign ministry, forcing employees to stop work, Lebanese media reported.

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“Generator owners in several regions started telling customers on Wednesday that they would not be able to provide electricity for lack of mazout,” a widely used petrol derivative, said Abdu Saadeh, head of a syndicate for generator owners.

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“We had warned late last week that the stocks would start running dry… and so far we haven’t found a solution.”

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Lebanon has been roiled since autumn 2019 by an economic crisis the World Bank says is likely to rank among the world’s worst financial crises since the mid-19th century.

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The collapse has sparked outrage at Lebanon’s political class, seen as woefully corrupt and unable to tackle the country’s many difficulties.

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Officials have blamed the current fuel shortages on stockpiling by traders and a surge of fuel smuggling into Syria.

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Several people have been arrested on suspicion of smuggling in recent weeks, according to the police.

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The central bank has set up a mechanism to subsidise fuels by up to 85 per cent, but fuel importers have accused it of failing to implement the programme.

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The head of public internet provider Ogero has warned that electricity cuts could also threaten Lebanon’s access to the web.

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