Morsi apologises for power cuts amid rising anger at the recent increase of electricity outages which generated a wave of protests by frustrated citizens around the country

With electricity outages becoming a pressing concern for Egyptians, President Mohamed Morsi apologised for the problem on Friday afternoon in a speech he gave in Qena, in Upper Egypt after Friday prayers.
“There are cuts in electrical power and in water in some places. I apologise to you all for this defect and I am working on it day and night. I hope we will give the new government the chance to address the drawbacks and it will be solved in days if not hours,” he told the audience.

Anger about the frequent electricity cuts has increased the last days. Protests erupted on Thursday night in the governorates of Beni Suef in Upper Egypt and Gharbiya in the western Delta over ongoing electricity cuts.

Ahram Arabic website reported that hundreds of citizens from villages in Beni Suef blockaded agricultural and desert roads, as well as railways, from Thursday night until dawn the next day, in protest at frequent electricity cuts.

An Ahram reporter in Beni Suef said that protesters are accusing members of the old regime in the ministry of electricity and its branches of faking the electricity crisis. They also asked the new Prime Minister Hisham Qandil to purge municipalities, governorates and governmental departments offering services from officials belonging to the old regime.

In Gharbiya, angry citizens of four villages also blockaded various main roads on Thursday night to protest against electricity cuts of up to four hours per day.

Egypt has been suffering an increasing number of power cuts in the last few weeks; the frequency and durations of cuts has increased recently, causing public anger.

No governorate or neighbourhood was spared; the only exception seems to be some areas of Heliopolis, a suburb of Cairo where the presidential residency is located. However, the duration of the cuts seems to be longer in remote governorates and shorter in Cairo.

In the summer heat and during Ramadan, the effect is highly damaging for many people. Blackouts have also damaged industries and businesses; factories experienced massive losses, especially metals and aluminum factories.

Furthermore, in some governorates sewage systems were affected, leading to street flooding.

On Facebook, pictures were posted of an apparent caesarian surgical operation being carried out under the light of mobile phones, as electricity went off during the process.

Numerous protests were reported across the nation the last week; in Ismailia, aling the Suez Canal, a march was organized; and in Benha, north of Cairo, frustrated citizens blockaded the Benha-Zagazig road and set fire to the railway track.

Al-Sharqiya residents in the eastern Delta halted their Ramadan Taraweeh (post fast breaking) prayers when the electricity went off in the mosque. In Sohag, citizens clashed with the police and army, while others tried to break into the electricity department.

The newly appointed minister of electricity, Mohamed Balbaa, who was previously the head of the Egyptian Electric Holding Company, said after his nomination on Thursday that the next week will witness greater stability in the electricity supply.

Balbaa added that two new power plants will operate soon.

“Tests to run the first unit of the Abu-Kir plant, with a generating capacity of 650 megawatts,will take place in 24 hours. The west Damietta plant will be connected to the national electricity network as soon as barriers prohibiting the connection reach an end,” he said in his first comments after his appointment, without clarifying further.

The Ministry of Electricity under the former minister had denied responsibility for the power cuts and blamed the problem on local protests by workers at power plants, the security vacuum and fuel shortages.

“It is not our fault. The ministry had a plan to operate two new power plants by the end of May but protests by local people at the sites prevented them from being completed,” ministry spokesman Aktham Abolela told Ahram Online last week.