Minister apologises after blackouts in southern Saudi Arabia

Most homes have now had electricity restored but the minister promised to hold an investigation

Abu Dhabi, U.A.E., Janualry 13, 2019.  H.E. Khalid Al-Falih, Minister of Energy, Industry, and Mineral Resources, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum.
Victor Besa / The National
Section:  BZ
Reporter:  Dania Saadi and Jennifer Gnana
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Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Khaled Al Falih has personally apologised to residents in the Kingdom’s south after hours-long power cuts on Saturday.

At around 4.45 am on Sunday, Saudi state media SPA reported that the state electricity company was working to repair electricity after blackouts in southern provinces. It said that the cuts were caused by weather conditions that knocked out a power relay station.

People reported that they had been without electricity for upwards of 10 hours. The official statement did not say how long the problem had been ongoing.

“I apologise personally to all residents of the areas that have been cut off from electricity in the south of the Kingdom as a result of technical malfunction emergency,” Mr Al Falih said on Twitter. “I assure you that my colleagues in the ministry are following the efforts to restore the service, where the emergency plan was activated to take measures to overcome the obstacles that led to this interruption.”

The minister said that they would take steps to understand what caused the problem and hold anyone who failed in their responsibility to account.

In the early morning statement on SPA, the electricity company said that service had been restored to 75 per cent of users. Around 9 am, the ministry said in a tweet that service had been restored to 94 per cent of users.

While some users replied to the minister thanking him for his efforts to restore power, several demanded more action. Some users reported that power had been out for several hours, had been restored and then cut again. Others demanded to know if there would be compensation for the interruption and said that electricity bills seemed to be increasing.

Another called on the company to improve infrastructure “such as exists in Riyadh, Jeddah and others.”

Numerous shops and supermarkets were all closed on Saturday due to the power outages. There were reports that long queues formed outside petrol stations as people filled up and sat in their cars for electricity and to stay cool with temperatures topped 40 degrees centigrade.