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Power Failure Under Investigation

Israel is trying to determine the cause and assess the damage done by yesterday’s massive power failure that blacked out the entire country for five hours. Most important, it is seeking ways to ensure that there is no repetition of the blackout because of the serious danger such a mishap can cause to national security.

The lights were hardly on again late last night when the Energy Ministry appointed a special committee to investigate the power disaster. Other investigations are sure to follow. The immediate cause apparently has been established.

According to the Israel Electric Corp., It was a case of “irresponsible error” by maintenance workers at the Reading power station in Tel Aviv. Because of unclear instructions, the workers grounded a main cable creating a short-circuit that tripped automatic safety devices in a chain reaction all over the country. The workers narrowly escaped electrocution and were described today still in a state of mental shock.

The power failure occurred during daylight hours but continued into the night. Traffic lights ceased functioning. There were numerous accidents and financial losses to businesses and industry that have not yet been estimated. Anti-terrorist squads were on the streets to beef up harassed police. There was only one reported incident of attempted looting in Tel Aviv and the perpetrator was arrested. The fire department was kept busy rescuing people stuck in elevators that stopped between floors. Hospitals and other large buildings that have independent generators were not affected by the blackout.

The populace took the blackout with good humor. But the local press was furious. One newspaper used the word “balagan” (chaos) in its headline to describe the situation. The power failure raised many serious questions, however. One was why there was no back-up system to provide at least partial current. Some engineers explained that unlike European countries which can draw power from their neighbors, Israel does not have that option. Proposals are expected to be made for alternative power sources and other measures to meet any future emergency.

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