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Iraq's electricity supply is finally restored to pre-war level By Jack Fairweather in Baghdad (Filed: 08/10/2003)
After six months and an outlay of ?80 million, Iraq's American-led administration said yesterday that it had finally restored the electricity supply to pre-war levels.
The milestone is one the administration has been eager to reach after a summer of blackouts and deepening resentment among Iraqis over the time taken to restore basic services.
Increasing the nation's power supply further is now at the centre of reconstruction efforts. On its success depend air conditioning and heating and revived oil and industrial production.
By next summer, Iraq will need more than double the 4,500 megawatts currently being produced and ?16 billion of investment to reverse years of neglect, officials said.
"It will take several years and a complete refurbishment of the power grid before we can give Iraq a stable power supply," said an electricity ministry spokesman.
The painstaking efforts of the coalition to restore power supplies have been undertaken amid systematic and barely checked looting on a grand scale, with impoverished Iraqis plundering wiring and metal casing to sell in the bazaars.
Among the footsoldiers of the restoration effort is Jasim Noor, an electrical repair man whose experiences highlight the problems ahead.
"Two weeks I was repairing a pylon, only they hadn't switched the power off properly, and I got a little shock," he said yesterday. He peeled off his gloves to reveal two deep burns where he had unwittingly grabbed a live power cable.
In the absence of proper communications in Baghdad, much of Jasim Noor's work relies on the city's residents informing him of their problems as he drives around the capital in his white van.
The main headache for coalition officials remains the security situation. Three American soldiers were killed yesterday in two roadside bombings outside the capital.
Earlier, Iraq's foreign ministry, near the Coalition Provisional Authority's headquarters, came under mortar attack, leaving a huge crater in its garden but no casualties.
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