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Thu, Jul 01, 2004 - Page 12 News List

Short blackout triggers terrorism fears in Singapore


Singapore began a probe yesterday into a rare two-hour power failure that sparked panic, including fears that the city might have been the target of a terror attack.

Nearly half of Singapore went dark when a valve tripped late on Tuesday at a station that receives gas from West Natuna, Indonesia, power authorities said. Six gas-fired power generators suddenly shut at around 10:15pm.

The blackout triggered fears that ultra-efficient Singapore, which prides itself on first-class infrastructure, had suffered an attack. Police were called to rescue people trapped in elevators.

"It was pitch dark. No street lights. No traffic lights. It was alarming. Terrorism flashed across my mind," said Tan Min Yee, 28, a marketing executive.

About 30 percent of the island was affected, Singapore's Energy Market Authority said.

Mobile phone networks were jammed by residents seeking information on whether there had been a "terrorist-related disruption," the Straits Times newspaper said.

"I thought it was some sort of a big disaster because I thought only my block had the blackout. But when I looked at the other blocks, everything was dark," one resident told state broadcaster Channel News Asia.

It was the worst power failure since August 2002, when a similar disruption in Indonesian gas supplies caused seven of Singapore's 10 gas-fired generating plants to suddenly fail. A leak in a gas pipeline also caused a disruption in November.

SembCorp Industries Ltd, which operates the West Natuna gas pipeline, said a preliminary investigation showed that the disruption was caused by a technical failure at a Jurong Island facility run by ConocoPhilips.

Indonesia's oil and gas watchdog said Tuesday's unexpected gas supply interruption followed an emergency shutdown at the Jurong Island facility .

Singapore depends on natural gas from Malaysia and Indonesia for 60 percent of its power, using three pipelines.

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