CEOL - Serbia Imposes Power Cuts As Winter Sets In

BELGRADE, Nov 18, 1999 -- (Reuters) Serbia has imposed emergency power cuts and electricity company officials were quoted on Wednesday as saying the system, damaged by NATO air strikes, was on the verge of collapsing.

Cuts began on Tuesday afternoon and continued on Wednesday, when Belgrade media quoted officials from the state utility EPS as saying the restrictions would go on until consumption dropped by 7 percent.

The EPS divided Serbia into sections that are taking turns in three-hour power cuts to help stabilize the system, which was badly damaged during NATO's air war against Yugoslavia from March to June this year.

"The power cuts will continue unless citizens take our warning seriously that they must use other heating resources, as the power supply system is on the verge of falling apart," the EPS maintenance department's director, Slobodan Petrovic, told the independent daily Glas Javnosti.

Other resources, however, such as coal and wood, are difficult to use for people living in apartment blocks and many people say they cannot afford to buy them.

"We just haven't got enough money to keep buying wood throughout the winter. I have no choice but to turn on the electric heaters when my children are cold," said Ivana Zugic, a mother of two living in central Belgrade.

The NATO air strikes put the lights out across Serbia and power cuts continued briefly after they ended. The system was repaired, but electricity company officials say its capacity is now limited.

"(The temperature) is not even below zero yet, I wonder what we will have to endure when the hard Balkan winter really comes down on us," said a worried Belgrade taxi driver depending on unreliable oil-generated central heating.

Radio and television channels on Wednesday appealed to households to "refrain from excessive consumption".

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