500,000 people in Ukraine's Odesa without power

Apartment buildings in Odesa are seen amid a previous strike on the city's infrastructure, in December 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

ODESA - The Ukrainian port city of Odesa has restored power to critical infrastructure after a fire broke out at an overloaded substation, leaving nearly 500,000 people without electricity, a top official said.

The blaze, which erupted earlier on Saturday, is a new blow to the country’s ailing energy grid that has been hammered by Russian strikes for months.

Officials said repairs could take weeks. The government said it would appeal to Turkey for help.

Ukrainian Energy Minister German Galushchenko wrote on Facebook late in the day: “Power to all critical infrastructure has been restored. The city will therefore have water and heat.

“About a third of the city’s consumers now have lighting,” he said, without giving precise details, adding that 31 high-power generators were on their way to the city.

Mr Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, chief executive of the state-grid operator, earlier said critical equipment that had already been damaged several times by Russian missile strikes burst into flames when it could no longer “withstand the load”.

He told a briefing that any further Russian missile or drone attacks could make matters even worse.

Since last October, Moscow has waged a campaign of massive missile attacks on energy infrastructure. Moscow says the strikes aim to reduce Ukraine’s ability to fight; Kyiv says they have no military purpose and are intended to hurt civilians.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal wrote on Telegram: “The situation is difficult, the scale of the accident is significant, it is impossible to quickly restore power supply.”

Odesa regional governor Maksym Marchenko said that practically all of the city had lost power after the incident, and that as at Saturday afternoon, about 500,000 people faced power failures. That represents about half of Odesa’s pre-war population of one million, when it was Ukraine’s third-largest city.

Mr Kudrytskyi said: “Today’s power supply (availability) allows (for) supply (to) the city and the district, about 40 or 45 per cent, but if we factor in critical infrastructure, then of course, very little is left for ordinary citizens.”

The temperature in Odesa stood at 2 deg C on Saturday and is due to dip below freezing for much of this week.

Mr Shmyhal said he had ordered Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry to appeal to Turkey to send power ships – vessels that carry power plants – to come to the city’s aid. REUTERS

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