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Tuesday April 22, 2008 MYT 4:15:10 PM

Vandals blamed for Sabah blackout

KOTA KINABALU: Vandals are being blamed for Sabah's worst blackout since the commissioning of the east west power grid in November last year.

Suspected vandals are believed to have removed steel pieces of a 132kV transmission tower that led to its collapse, triggering a major power blackout Monday lasting nearly six hours from 6.41pm and affecting 300,000 consumers in most areas of the state.

Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd managing director Baharin Din told a press conference Tuesday that vandals removed about 20 steel pieces holding together a transmission tower at Suang Parai area here.

"It looks like they can get about RM40 in scrap value but caused huge losses and inconvenience to the people of Sabah," Baharin said, adding that the tower itself cost about RM400,000.

He said the transmission line between Kayu Madang and Universiti Malaysia Sabah collapsed and this led to a power trip that caused a domino effect tripping all SESB and independent power plants connected to the various grids.

"We lost about 500MW of power and 90% of the state was affected," he said, adding that Sabah Electricity managed to return power in stages from 7.15pm (Monday) before fully restoring power in all areas by 12.15am Tuesday.

Moves are underway to build a temporary tower with the help of their parent company Tenaga Nasional Berhad using the Armed Forces to help send down a new tower to be set up within three weeks before a permanent tower is put up in four months.

"Right now the situation is fragile as we are using an alternative underground 66kV cable to channel power from one its generation plants here," Baharin said, adding that west coast Sabah was providing most of the supplies to the east coast areas where their generation capacity was low due to old diesel-powered generators.

He said SSEB might implement load shedding depending on the peak demands between 11am and noon and 3pm and noon if the situation warrants.

To a question as to why there was no mechanism to stop the domino effect of the tripping, Baharin replied that such a mechanism can only be done if there is an excess of power supply but right now there is just enough power to meet the demand.

Some 83,000 consumers in Beaufort, Keningau, Tambunan, Tenom, Telupid and Ranau were not affected by the blackout as they are not connected to the grid system and have their own power generation.

Meanwhile, Kota Kinabalu police chief Asst Comm Ahmad Sofi Zakaria said full investigations are being carried out and the police are also checking with scrap dealers to nab the culprits.

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