Unexpected blackouts nationwide

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Unexpected blackouts nationwide

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A supermarket owner lights candles in a shop in Bukahyeon-dong, central Seoul, yesterday as unprecedented blackouts hit the nation. [YONHAP]


Unprecedented blackouts were reported across the nation yesterday afternoon after the hot, sunny day brought on a surge in power use, sparking rumors of a terrorist attack.

The Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) and the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said the surge coincided with regular maintenance work at a number of power plants nationwide, triggering the blackouts.

The Korea Power Exchange issued a statement yesterday saying rolling blackouts had started from 3 p.m. after power demand exceeded the expected amount yesterday afternoon. It said regular power would be restored by 8 p.m.

The government denied all fears of a terrorist attack.

“We are not seeing this as an act of terror,” Park Seung-yong, head of the antiterror bureau of the Seoul Metropolitan Police told the JoongAng Ilbo. “There would have been calls to the police if there were explosions near power transmission plants. This is just a mechanical breakdown resulting from too much power use because of the hot weather.”

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Traffic lights went blank yesterday in Ojang-dong, central Seoul, as the electricity supply failed due to a sudden surge in power demand because of the hot weather. Cities across the nation were affected. [YONHAP]

Although most power was restored in the evening after temperatures cooled down, the roughly three-hour blackout killed traffic signals and ATM transactions, stranded passengers in elevators and even affected phone calls, bringing on pockets of chaos in various cities.

According to the Seoul Metropolitan Fire and Disaster Headquarters, there were 93 emergency calls made from people trapped in elevators from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. alone. Other cities such as Daegu and Incheon also had hundreds of elevators halted at the same time, and the disaster headquarters were overwhelmed by calls for help.

The power shortage shut off base stations for mobile services, causing a halt in cellphone services for a short while.

Although all three cellphone service providers said they had ordered base stations to run on emergency batteries, they warned of more disruption later on because those batteries only last from three to six hours.

Policemen were deployed in roughly 250 places around Seoul to get traffic through the streets where stoplights went dead. The police were unable to estimate how many lights were affected.

Traffic lights at 259 intersections in Gyeonggi stopped working after 10 cities experienced blackouts, according to police.


By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]


한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

한전 오판, 국민이 당했다

늦더위 전력수요 예측 실패
전국 5시간 첫 블랙아웃
지경부·전력거래소와 책임공방

15일 오후 5시30분 정부 과천청사. 긴급 브리핑에 나선 지식경제부 정재훈 에너지자원실장은 “오후 들어 전력 수요가 갑작스럽게 올라가 전력 공급 중단을 예고할 시간이 없었다”며 “전력 수요 예측을 잘못했다”고 고개를 숙였다. 이날 전국적으로 발생한 ‘정전 대란’의 원인이 정부의 수요 예측 실패에 있었음을 인정한 것이다.

 최중경 지식경제부 장관은 “전력 수급 상황이 급변할 것을 예측하지 못해 한전과 전력거래소가 사전에 예고하지 못한 상태에서 순환정전이라는 불가피한 조치를 하게 돼 국민 여러분께 큰 불편을 끼쳐 송구스럽다”고 사과했다.

 가을 늦더위와 정부의 수요 예측 실패가 전국에 정전 대란을 몰고 왔다. 한전의 전력 공급 중단은 오후 3시 시작됐다. 오후 6시30분 현재 정전 가구 수는 162만 호에 달했다. 정전 사태는 약 5시간이 지난 오후 7시56분 일단 정상화됐다. 국지적인 정전이 아닌 전국 동시 다발적인 블랙아웃(Blackout·대규모 정전사태)이 빚어진 것은 이번이 처음이다. 9월 초순 이후 지속적인 늦더위가 예고됐음에도 불구하고, 정부는 일부 발전소를 정비하느라 가동을 중단하는 등 안이한 대응을 한 것으로 드러나 지경부와 한전·전력거래소 책임론이 불거질 전망이다. 이날 부산·대구·광주 등 제주도를 제외한 전국 곳곳에서 정전 피해가 잇따랐다.

 전력 공급 중단으로 서울 여의도·광화문·강남 지역은 엘리베이터와 에스컬레이터가 운행을 멈추는 등 큰 혼란이 빚어졌다. 신호등이 꺼져 교통이 마비되고, 일부 은행 자동화기기가 멈추는가 하면 휴대전화도 먹통이 됐다.

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