Indonesia's Java, Bali suffer big power outage


By Muklis Ali

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Power supplies to large areas of Java and Bali islands in Indonesia were disrupted on Thursday, state electricity company PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) said but there was no immediate suggestion of sabotage. 

The blackout prompted the mobilisation of thousands of police in the capital, a city of 10 million people. Travellers were stranded as electric trains lay idle in Jakarta, while many office buildings and hotels switched to back-up generators. 

Shoppers at Plaza Indonesia, an upscale shopping centre in central Jakarta, walk down a corridor on their way out of the building after a power failure hit the city August 18, 2005. (REUTERS/Darren Whiteside)

"Jakarta was completely blacked out, the supply to the city had gone ... Now some areas (in Jakarta) have started to regain power," said Mulyo Aji, a general manager at PLN. 

"As far as I know, there's no terror issue here," he said. 

Officials said the cause of the disruption was not known. But rising power demand in Indonesia, Southeast Asia's biggest economy and home to 220 million people, has outstripped supply while fresh investment in new power plants and transmission lines has lagged. 

PLN said the disruption to the Java-Bali interconnection network, had caused some major power plants in the region to shut down, reducing power supply. About 120 million people live on Java. 

"There was disruption in the interconnection networks. Since the big power plants are sensitive, the disruption in the network caused them to shut down," Eddie Widiono, PLN president director told reporters. "The power has been gradually recovering." 

A similar-sized outage occurred in September 2002 and officials said the failure of a circuit breaker in the same network caused that blackout. The outage lasted two days. 

Mulyo Aji said at least three major power plants on Java -- Paiton, Muara Karang and Suralaya -- were down on Thursday. 

A Reuters photographer saw people rushing out of buildings, while traffic in some parts of the Jakarta ground to a halt as traffic lights failed. 

In Bali, blackouts occurred in three regencies -- Buleleng, Tabanan, and Karang Asem. The outage there lasted a about half an hour, a witness told Reuters. 

Holidaymakers contacted in the popular Kuta and Seminyak tourist areas of the resort island said they did not notice any disruption. 

POLICE ON ALERT 

Jakarta police were on alert due to the blackout, handling traffic and securing neighbourhoods from crime, Jakarta police spokesman Tjiptono said. 

"Police have assigned 18,000 personnel (2/3 of the total force) from different units to secure Jakarta. We are also monitoring the situation by helicopter." 

The blackout stopped electric trains operating around the Indonesian capital. 

At Manggarai train station in central Jakarta, hundreds of passangers were stranded. 

"I don't know when I will reach my house in Bogor. My grandchild is already sick," said housewife Dina Liono, 51. 

Sumiati, a resident of a village near Bogor city to the south of Jakarta said: "I asked the station master and he was uncertain on what has happened." 

An official said Jakarta's main international airport was also affected but no flights had been cancelled. 

High global oil prices have seen Indonesian authorities introduce various power-saving schemes in recent months, including rolling blackouts in the capital and other cities. 

About 30 percent of its plants use oil products such as diesel and fuel oil, 40 percent coal, 19 percent natural gas, 5 percent geothermal energy and 6 percent hydropower. 

PLN, which has 21,700 megawatts (MW) of electricity capacity all over Indonesia, had said it will cut oil use at power plants to five percent in the next three years. 

Some PLN power plants in East Java plan to switch to natural gas from diesel oil as soon as next year. 

(Additional reporting by Achmad Sukarsono, Telly Natalia, Ade Rina, Darren Whiteside and Dan Eaton) 

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