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Power Plant Workers Struggle to Restore Electricity to Baghdad

He’s the man who keeps the lights on in Baghdad. In the weeks following the U.S. air campaign, it was Janan Behnam and his staff here at the Daura Power Plant who successfully struggled to restore and maintain power in this city of five million.

“You know Baghdad was under dark. And we want to make the people happy, of course, to fix everything and to prevent looting and [provide] security for Baghdad. This need [takes] power of course,” Mr. Behnam said.

He says there were many inaccurate stories about what went on in the early part of the war.

He said, "I would like to show you also, you see that one?"

The power plant itself has very little damage from bombing.

"This porcelain for circuit breaker #6,” Mr. Behnam said.

No bombs were dropped on the plant. According to Janan, the damage could have been from anti-aircraft fire falling back to earth.

"I mean, perhaps from our side. I don’t know exactly," he said.

According to Janan, rumors that Saddam loyalists sabotaged Baghdad’s electrical network or that U.S. forces intentionally shut off the power are untrue.

"The power [darkness] during the war was from the bombing of the transmission lines and made them unbalanced with the system," Mr. Behnam said.

As Saddam spent billions on lavish palaces and military hardware, Iraq’s infrastructure went into decay.

Of the eight oil and gas generators at Daura Power Station, only three can operate now.

All were in poor repair before the war. The German company Siemens is in the process of refurbishing two of the generators, and a third needs only new software.

"Due to the war, the supervisors of the Siemens Company, they leave Baghdad," Mr. Bahnam said. "And after about three weeks they promise to come back and finish the job. They need about four months to finish the work."

Regardless, the Daura station keeps turning out power just like an old 1970s automobile that constantly needs repair but never seems to die.

There are still rolling blackouts in Baghdad every day. Contrary to what was written in the press, Mr. Behnam says that was true before the war as well.

Daura has never been able to produce more than 70 percent of the power demand for Baghdad. Mr. Behnam has asked for assistance from the Organization for Rehabilitation and Humanitarian Assistance to rebuild the entire Iraqi power network.