COLOMBO: Sri Lanka today deployed army to protect key power installations linked to the national power grid as the government probed whether sabotage was behind an explosion that led to the worst blackout in 20 years which plunged the island-nation into darkness for hours.
President Maithripala Sirisena has ordered the army to protect all installations linked to the national power grid, Power and Energy Ministry Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said.
“We are hoping to ask for the protection of the military at key power installations,” Mr Siyambalapitiya told reporters.
Sri Lanka experienced a nationwide power outage for more than six hours yesterday — the third nationwide electricity blackout within six months — after an explosion at the main power distribution station north of Colombo.
The army deployment follows fears of attempts to sabotage the power sector, the Colombo Gazette reported.
Authorities were probing the cause of the explosion. But they have not ruled out sabotage. “We were investigating technical reasons for the previous breakdown, but now we have another blackout,” Mr Siyambalapitiya said. “This means we have to look at other possibilities too,” he added.
Although power was restored last night in most parts, some areas however remained dark. The blackout disrupted water supply from the major Ambatale water distribution tank, the National Water Supply and Drainage Board said. Public transport was also disrupted and fuel pumps were out of action.
The latest blackout was the longest since May 1996 when the entire country was without electricity for four days.
The chairman of state-run Ceylon Electricity Board, Anura Wijepala, has offered to resign taking responsibility of the worst breakdown.
Mr Siyambalapitiya has, however, refused to accept it. “He was already Chairman when I took over this ministry I continued with him and I want him to continue,” he said.
The outage comes just weeks after a similar outage on February 25, prompting Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to appoint a five-member committee to investigate the matter. Last month’s power failure had happened during the visit by New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.