Monday, June 27, 2011

Water, fuel, power crises plague Yemen amid unrest

by Fuad Rajeh, Wang Qiuyun

SANAA, June 27 (Xinhua) -- Crises ranging from acute water and fuel shortages, day-and-night power outages to price hikes are deepening in Yemen as unrest continues in the country, alarming political vacuum and insecurity.

"There has been no water supply here for weeks and we used to buy water recently. The price of water is triply inflated," said Suad al-Salahi, a woman who lives in al-Hasaba district in Sanaa.

"Furthermore, I don't go to work these days because there are no taxis due to the acute fuel shortage. If I take a taxi I have to pay much more than I usually do," she added.

Al-Hasaba, the main battle field of clashes between the army and the tribesmen loyal to the opposition leader Sadeqal-Ahmer late last month, is still empty of people and suffering from the lack of all services.

Many families in the district have not returned to their homes yet and those who came back can't live normally, said al-Salahi.

The situation further worsens in outskirts of the capital because water truck drivers are refusing to supply water to homes, citing the fuel shortage or saying some people complained they are exploiting the situation to sell water for much higher prices.

Um Mahir, who lives in Asser district overlooking the western part of Sanaa, said the water and power crises have worsened to an unbearable extent. "There is no water supply and water truck drivers refuse to transport water to us here," she said.

"We can live without electricity but cannot without water," said Um Mahir.

Officials at the Public Water Corporation blamed the shortage on power outages.

"When we fix damages made to power towers, saboteurs carry out new attacks," said Ramzi al-Absi, an official at the Public Electricity Corporation, adding "though there are forces now guarding power towers and the gas-fired station in Marib, technical teams can't go there to repair damages because of road closures and bandits."

In the past few weeks, electricity has been cut off in Sanaa and many other provinces, forcing businesses to close and causing big losses to others, in coastal areas some patients died due to the lack of electricity.

Meanwhile, acute fuel shortage worsened crisis here. In the past few weeks, long queues of cars were seen at gates of gas stations, waiting for their turns to get some petrol or diesel.

"There is no fuel in my car ... not even a drop of oil. I was forced to park it here until the filling station gets something that we can use to go home or do something," said Nabil al-Maqtari, a driver in al-Daery Street.

"We have been here for four days. Two days ago, we were about to fill our cars, but a colonel from the republican guard came to fill his cars by force, triggering the closure of the gas station, " Nabil complained, adding that the price for 20 liter of petrol soared from 1,500 rial (some seven U.S. dollars ) to more than 10, 000 rial (some 47 U.S. dollars ) in the black market.

The crux of all crises lies in the fuel shortage, because when there is no fuel, prices increase and other services are not available, said Mustafa Nasr, head of the Studies and Economic Media Center.

In the meantime, the government blamed road closures and bandits for the fuel crisis, saying oil trucks have been held in many areas and some were attacked.

"The main oil pipeline in Marib was attacked and has not been repaired due to the continuous unrest," said Adam al-Ashwal, an official at the Oil and Minerals Ministry.

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