Massive Power Outage Triggered by Falling Tree

A massive power outage that left large areas of Phnom Penh without elec­­tricity and water and plunged Southern Vietnam into darkness on Wednesday was caused by a crane operator knocking a tree onto a high-voltage power line, Vietnam’s state-owned energy provider said Thursday.

The power cut, which left Phnom Penh without electricity for more than six hours, was described by Vi­et­namese media as the most extensive outage in the country’s history.

“A crane with the registration number 61P-3745 broke safety regulations, which led to widespread outages in the Southern region of Viet­nam,” the Southern Power Corporation, which is owned by Viet­nam Electricity Group, said in a statement.

The incident “caused traffic chaos and affected manufacturing operations and business in all prov­inces in the region,” the statement adds.

The state-owned newspaper, Thanh Nien, reported that the incident had cost the Southern Power Corporation an estimated $700,000 in lost revenue.

According to the statement, the man responsible for the incident was 56-year-old Tran Van Nhat, who works for a timber company and was moving a single 17-meter-long log when it fell onto the 500-kilovolt transmission line.

Police “do not exclude the possibility of prosecutions after investigating the behavior of individuals [in­volved],” due to the “huge consequences the accident had on society,” the statement says.

An official at Cambodia’s state-owned energy provider Electricite du Cambodge, who did not give his name because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said that no one had yet estimated how much the incident had cost the firm.

However, he said the outage had meant Cambodia’s national grid had lost 40 percent of its capacity during the hours without electricity. “It is like an ox cart that is pulled by two cows. If one of those cows stops working, the other one can’t pull the cart forward,” he said.

The blackout hit the tourist-thronged riverfront area and left scores of hotels, restaurants and offices throughout the city in darkness. Still, tourists and business owners said Thurdsay they weren’t overly bothered by the power cut.

Peadar Queally, owner of Queally’s Irish bar on Street 172, said that apart from the heat, the blackout had actually been a boon to business.

“In fact, we had more customers than usual because offices closed and people were let out early,” he said.

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