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Lebanon plunged into darkness as generator owners strike, power cuts worsen

Demonstrators burn tyres and block roads with barriers on June 06, 2020 in Beirut, Lebanon. Thousands of people gathered at Martyrs' Square during an anti government demonstration and to protest against economic crisis and high cost of living [Hussam Chbaro / Anadolu Agency]
Demonstrators burn tyres and block roads with barriers during an anti government demonstration in Beirut, Lebanon on 6 June 2020 [Hussam Chbaro/Anadolu Agency]

Lebanon’s population was plunged into darkness after private generator owners went on strike for one hour yesterday over the rising cost of diesel, the National reports.

Lebanon was already struggling with a crippling electricity scarcity problem which has seen increasingly long and frequent power cuts across the country.

Last year, Lebanon’s state-run electricity company, the Electricite du Liban (EDL), was supplying 21 hours of power a day to Beirut, with residents relying on generators for the remaining three hours.

Other areas of Lebanon received fewer hours of electricity with some areas of countryside dealing with power cuts as long as 12 hours on a daily basis.

Now, however, the EDL supplies only two hours of electricity a day to Beirut and less across the rest of the country.

The power cuts, which have left traffic signals in the capital defunct, adding to the chaos on Beirut’s streets, are partially a result of a tainted fuel delivery from Algerian company Sonatrach in May this year.

READ: Lebanon Moody’s rating cut to the same grade as Venezuela

The disruption in supplies created a fuel scarcity problem which has yet to be resolved, despite Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s claim yesterday that Lebanon has enough fuel for six months.

However, the problem of chronic fuel scarcity has left private generator owners, who are ostensibly illegal, to bridge the gap.

Despite the upswing in business, however, private generator owners are striking over the rising price of diesel, which has sometimes been tainted.

According to the National, a group of generator owners demonstrated outside the energy ministry building in Beirut on Monday, calling for fairer prices.

Owners reportedly accused Lebanon’s official diesel importers of selling the product to a third party who significantly inflate prices before then trading the wares with generator owners.

One source was cited by the National as saying, “they sell 20 litres of diesel for up to 34,000 Lebanese pounds instead of the usual 16,000… they are profiting from the situation”.

Yesterday, private generator owners shut off the electricity supply for one hour to protest the rising prices, but the group have vowed to turn off power permanently on 5 August if their demands go unanswered.

READ: Lebanon’s Hezbollah denies infiltration attempt or clashes near Lebanese frontier

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