An “unstable” fire at a power station has cut electricity to the majority of the country in a blow to a major Arab power source that until recently had maintained a stable supply through the nearby country of Syria.
Civil defence teams in Beirut, south Lebanon, battled flames on Saturday at a power station where fuel reserves had been destroyed by the fire, a national electric company official told Reuters.
Many generators across Lebanon run on fuel from the station, one of three in southern Lebanon, and without it power across most of the country would be cut.
Lebanon is facing a critical shortage of fuel and is relying on Russia and Iran to supply it with some gas. Lebanon’s ties with the US and other western countries have been strained by US sanctions on Iran, Lebanon’s main backer.
The government was immediately alerted to the problem and instructed authorities to prepare for the loss of power to the north and south of the country.
Firefighters outside the power station, south of Beirut, Lebanon. Photograph: Reyad Ismail/AFP/Getty Images
Last month, the government raised the level of security deposit demanded from customers as it struggled to pay for fuel to generators, fearing the pumps of fuel depots would be shut down.
It said the heightened security deposit would put some €250m (£232m) back into state coffers next year, prompting swift complaints from customers who say the government had done too little to curb energy bills in the past.
The Lebanese electricity company, El Khoury, said in a statement it had restored electricity supplies to all areas, including the northern and eastern part of the country, where an “unstable” fire had caused the blackout, sending black smoke billowing across the Mediterranean.
There was no immediate word from the company or government on the nature of the fire.