Downtown Beijing was struck by two major blackouts over the weekend, leaving up to 7,000 households temporarily without power.
The most serious blackout was on Saturday, when some areas in Chaoyang District were left without power for two and a half hours in the early afternoon.
At least 6,900 households were affected, as well as 57 high-voltage users and 21 heavy consumers of electricity.
Affected places included major international hotels such as the Great Wall Sheraton and the Hilton, and also the Beijing Youyi Shopping Centre.
A news release from the Beijing Electric Power Corp said the accident was caused by a steel cable that workers hung down from the top of a building to install a hanging basket and clean the building's outside glass wall.
The steel cable was blown into a high-voltage wire by the wind, cutting power supply at 1:26 pm.
"We have not put a figure on the damage caused by the blackout. Matters like that and responsibility for the accident will all be dealt with after the weekend," said Tang Songhan of the Beijing Electric Power Corp in a telephone interview.
After the power was cut off, customers at the Beijing Youyi Shopping City, popular with foreign residents in the city, were dispersed at once, while employees were ordered to wait outside the store.
The blackout also made at least two traffic lights malfunction for 15 minutes.
Fortunately, due to lower weekend traffic volume and prompt action by traffic police, no traffic jams were caused.
The electric power company has doubled its number of telephone operators to 32 in an attempt to explain the situation to affected residents. In less than two hours after the blackout, more than 800 calls were received, said the news release.
The second blackout occurred yesterday morning in the area around Anzhen Overpass.
Six high-voltage users and at least 400 households were affected.
Investigation showed that it was caused when workers accidentally damaged three electric cables during their work.
By press time, power had not yet been restored.
Power shortages are common in the capital city in the hot summer months. It is estimated that there will be a shortage of 500,000 kilowatts this summer.
Beijing Electric Power Corp has made preparations to maintain the balance of supply and demand of power.
This year, the company is planning to conduct a trial in Dongcheng and Xicheng districts of charging different fees for electricity depending on the time of day. Power will be more expensive during the daytime, and cheaper during the night.
At present, the multi-rate system does not apply to eight categories, including households, schools, hospitals, government departments, military sites, agricultural irrigation, subway and trolley buses.
Once approved by the State Development and Reform Commission, the trial will kick off on June 30.
(China Daily May 29, 2006)