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The electricity crisis leaves Iraqis looking for fresh air

As the suffocating heat of summer sends Iraqis searching for interesting places, restaurateur Ali Hussein provides shelter, even though it means connecting to an expensive generator.

"Customers should feel comfortable when they eat," said Hussein, who bets on his reputation by ensuring that customers are constantly bombarded by air conditioning.

Outside, temperatures at this time of year can reach 50 degrees Celsius (120 Fahrenheit), which sends the demand for electricity.

But Iraq's vast power grid is unable to cope, leaving business owners – and the few citizens who can afford it – in debt to private supplies.

Hussein saves 225,000 dinars ($ 190) a month to the owner of a generator for a 15-amp supply of electricity to his Baghdad restaurant.

It is the "golden" option, guaranteed to operate without interruption.

But the cost is more than some Iraqis earn.

And for most citizens, there is little escape from a heat that barely shocks is at night.

We have only "four or five hours of electricity" per day from the national network, the shopkeeper Mouthanna Mehdi said AFP .

The rage over the energy shortage plunged into deadly riots in July.

At least 14 people were killed in street protests that began in the oil-rich southern city of Basra on July 8 and spread to other areas, including Baghdad.


– Winners and losers –

Like Hussein, Mehdi earns enough to pay for electricity from a generator.

But you can only afford a supply of five amplifiers.

"It is not enough to turn on all the lights and the air conditioning at the same time," he said.

"Sometimes the generators break down or stop when they run out of fuel, which can damage our electrical appliances," added the 40-year-old pilot.

Generators are common in the corners of Baghdad and other major cities, often hastily installed by small entrepreneurs to exploit the peak of summer demand.

Cable entanglements protrude from the devices, disfiguring the city and causing electrical fires.

But as in all crises, there are winners and losers.

If the power situation "were resolved, we would do it" we lose our job, "said Hussein Kazem, who sells fuel to generators owners.

-" Lies and robberies "-

Experts say that the supply of electricity falls at least 40 percent of the demand during the summer. [19659002] And a substantial portion of the estimated $ 40 billion allocated to the electricity sector in the last 15 years has vanished.


Money from public tenders has allegedly covered Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi fired Electricity Minister Qasim al-Fahdawi on Sunday.

Fahdawi had been the architect of a privatization program that had been carried out with the aim of stifling the protests was intended to announce electricity 4 hours a day.

Iraqis say the project worked well for a few months in the areas where it was tested.

But as soon as the summer heat came, the power outages multiplied once again.

Authorities say they have increased electricity generation by almost 50 percent to 17,000 megawatts since 2014.

Normal Iraqis are skeptical about this figure.

"This is all lies and theft," said Mazen, who repairs generators and did not want to give his full name.

"Leaders divert money and hide it abroad, and when they say the situation is improving, you can be sure they are lying," he said.

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