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American Forces Press Service

Electric Grid Stabilized After Attack

By Mitch Frazier
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAYJI, Iraq, Sept. 16, 2004 - The Iraq electricity grid stabilized today after a series of explosions here early Sept. 14 left three oil pipelines damaged and one main electrical line severed.

Three explosions rocked the area near the Bayji Electricity Plant shortly after 2 a.m. Tuesday morning, erupting three crude oil lines and sending a sea of blazing oil under an electricity line strung nearly 300 feet above the fiery flow.

The intense heat melted the line, causing the nearly 5,000 Megawatt national grid to short circuit.

The short circuit tripped substations and gates in the electrical system, leaving most of the country in the dark Tuesday morning. "This was the act of vandals and cowards," said a senior Ministry of Electricity official who asked to remain anonymous. "This was an attack on the people of Iraq; the sick, the children, all the people that need the electricity."

Redundancy in the electrical distribution system allowed the ministry to begin restoring electrical service within hours after the attack.

By Tuesday evening 85 percent of the country's electrical service had been restored and by today that number had returned to the pre-attack level of 5,000 megawatts.

The emergency response by the ministry is the first since the transition of authority earlier this year by Coalition Provisional Authority to the Interim Iraqi Government. "The swift response of the Ministry of Electricity displayed their ability to quickly respond and restore the national grid for the people of Iraq," said Lt. Col. Jeffery Ogden, director of the Army Corps of Engineers efforts to restore Iraq's electricity. "Their tremendous quick response and restoration of the grid proves their dedication and tenacity to creating a better Iraq."

The move to quickly restore the nation's electricity in the wake of the attack came as temperatures across the country have cooled in the past week and demand on the national grid lessened. Today, most of Iraq was powered with at least 16 hours of electricity. Some areas received upwards of 20-24 hours of electricity service.

Attacks by extremists on infrastructure across the country have cost the Iraqi people more than $500 million in lost revenue and repair costs; money reconstruction officials say that could go toward improving the lives of Iraqis.

"We know how important electricity is to the safety and security of the Iraqi people, and we continue to work on their behalf with the ministry to bring the country additional electricity," Ogden said. "We continue to work in partnership with the Ministry of Electricity and the Iraqi people to bring the country more electricity."

Security continues to be a driving force for the reconstruction effort aimed at bringing more electricity generators online across the country.

"With more electricity, the country becomes a safer place," said the Ministry of Electricity official. "But you need security to produce electricity. "The two are very related."

Efforts to bolster the nation's electrical infrastructure continue. Iraqi and U.S. engineers have brought three rehabilitated generators and one new generator online this month, adding 47 megawatts to the national electrical grid. In August, seven generators were brought on line, adding 202 megawatts to the grid - a total that now fuels 606,000 Iraqi homes and brings the available electricity to a level that far exceeds the 4,400 megawatts available before the war.

(By Mitch Frazier is deputy public affairs officer for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region Division.)

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