Vietnam Power Failure Hits Phnom Penh

A massive power outage Wednesday in Southern Vietnam brought rolling blackouts that lasted for hours to Ho Chi Minh City, the entire southeastern region of Vietnam and large sections of Phnom Penh.

Vietnam’s state-owned South­ern Power Corporation said Wednesday that the problem occurred around 2 p.m. following the breakdown of a 500-kilovolt transmission line that also supplies Cambodia with much-needed electricity.

An official at Electricite du Cambodge (EdC), Cambodia’s state-owned energy provider, who did not give his name because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said that the blackouts in Phnom Penh were due to the outages in Vietnam.

“We have only about 30 percent of our normal supply of electricity to distribute to important areas of the city, but we are trying to fix the problem” the official said Wednesday afternoon, adding that Vietnam provides Cambodia with about 40 percent of its national electricity supply.

At about 2 p.m., the power went out all over Phnom Penh causing the city’s central water pumping station to stop working, leaving many in the city without power and water.

By 7 p.m., the entire length of Phnom Penh’s popular riverfront area lay in darkness, as tourists crowded restaurants drinking cans of beer by candlelight, while wait staff hung around outside establishments that were unable to cook food or use running water. The power appeared to return to central Phnom Penh around 8 p.m.

Keo Sovannarith, deputy director of the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority, confirmed the city’s water supply had been hit by the outage.

“When the water supply factory loses electricity from the EdC, the machines—which use electricity to work—can’t pump water to the pipes,” he said, adding that it takes a further 30 minutes to 1 hour after power is restored for the pumping machines to get water back into all the city’s pipes.

At the Foreign Correspon­dents’ Club (FCC) on the riverfront, about 30 customers sat in the flickering light of a wood-fired pizza oven and a few candles. Unlike many of the businesses along Phnom Penh’s main tourist artery, the FCC has its own generator to cope with power cuts. Yet this power cut went on for many hours, and the generator eventually ran out of fuel.

“The blackout started at 2 p.m., but the generator broke down at about 6 p.m. because we don’t usually have it on for so long,” FCC supervisor Sao Rattana said.

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