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Visitors flee power blackout on Koh Samui, Koh Phangan
[December 06, 2012]

Visitors flee power blackout on Koh Samui, Koh Phangan

SURAT THANI, Dec 06, 2012 (Bangkok Post - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Technicians worked through the night trying to restore electricity on Koh Samui and Koh Phangan as a two-day power blackout has forced thousands of tourists to flee the islands.

The islands have been without power since Tuesday morning after a section of an underground high-voltage cable in tambon Taling Ngam of Koh Samui district ruptured.

The cable provides electricity from Nakhon Si Thammarat's Khanom district.

Inspectors found that Khanom Electricity Generating Co in Nakhon Si Thammarat, which supplies power to Koh Samui and Koh Phangan, temporarily shut off the electricity for maintenance.

The system failed when they tried to restart it, said Sakda Nawarat, the deputy chief of the Provincial Electricity Authority's (PEA) customer service section.

Chanchai Banditsaowaphak, assistant to the PEA governor on network operations, said technicians expected to finish the repairs to the broken section by 6am today.

Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan yesterday instructed state agencies to dispatch mobile generators to the affected areas, as tourists faced many problems after being without electricity since Tuesday.

Many tourists left their resorts, crowding Koh Samui's only airport in tumultuous scenes.

Typically at this time of year Koh Samui hosts about 20,000 tourists. That number shrank to about 1,000 yesterday.

Tourism officials said the blackout should not chase away tourists in the long term, as most holiday-makers have yet to arrive for what is the local high season, starting in the middle of the month.

"Total damages to tourism on the two islands should not be more than 5 billion baht," estimated Wanni Thaipanich, chairwoman of the association of tourism promotion for Koh Phangan.

Hotels and residents on the pair of islands struggled for light, using their own generators or candles.

But many people were hoarding supplies and several hotels were running out of fuel for their generators.

"Many hotels have also begun to stock oil [to fuel generators], for fear that petrol stations will run out of it," said Sunthon Phuphaibun, manager of Coral Cove hotel, which is in the dark after the hotel's generator failed yesterday when it overheated.

Mobile phones on Koh Samui were also knocked out after fuel for generators powering the island's transmission poles ran out.

During repairs yesterday, PEA officials had to rely on limited power supply reserves, forcing them to distribute power to small sections of the island in two-hour rotations.

"At least people could do some cooking," a PEA official said.

PTT Plc yesterday delivered about 200,000 litres of fuel to five petrol stations on Koh Samui to ease the fuel shortage.

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