© Reuters. 70-year-old Samira Hanna washes dishes in her kitchen, while in Beirut she used a portable electric light due to a power cut
By Imad Creidi and Ellen Francis
BEIRUT (Reuters) – Samira Hanna spends a lot of time in the dark. Her old apartment in Beirut receives less than two hours of electricity a day, and since the Lebanese economy is in ruins, the grandmother can hardly afford candles, let alone a private generator.
"I'm sitting outside on the stairs to get some light," she said. "We don't watch TV. I'm waiting for the electricity so I can do laundry … And there's nothing in the fridge, believe me."
Exacerbated by the financial crisis in Lebanon, the lack of fuel has exacerbated the existing power outages and has further exacerbated the Lebanese struggling with job losses, rising prices and hunger.
In the summer heat, parts of the capital Beirut only receive electricity for a few hours a day. Some residents said the blackouts were worse than during the 1975-1990 civil war.
The energy minister cited stockpiling as one of several reasons for the shortage. People buy subsidized fuel as a hedge against inflation.
"Instead of buying gold, people buy diesel," said Raymond Ghajar recently.
Smuggling across the border into Syria is also a factor.
The delivery was also interrupted by the consequences of an inspection of consignments that did not meet the specifications.
Ghajar said that ships carrying fuel arrived this week and promised a gradual return to normality – although normality meant daily blackouts across Lebanon.
Private generator suppliers, which have long closed the supply gap caused by inconsistent government supplies, have also rationed fuel, and many households can no longer pay exorbitant fees.
Hospitals were not spared either: the main public hospital in Beirut, which treated coronavirus cases, had to close some operating rooms and switch off the air conditioning in the corridors, local media reported.
And without energy for switchboards, cellular coverage has been reduced in parts of the country.
The Lebanese energy sector, which is at the center of the crisis, is bleeding up to $ 2 billion a year from public funds without providing enough electricity. The heavily indebted state has long promised to fix the problem, but has failed to keep its promise.
Hanna, in her mid-70s, said she had never had it so bad. Daily failures have made her mentally disabled daughter hectic.
The blackouts have created resentment towards political leaders who publicly argue about how the sector can be repaired as the blackouts worsen.
"It's time they took pity on us. But what does it matter to them?" She said. "They have money and they can live, we cannot … You can see that people are suffering, but they cannot feel."
Badiaa, 75, is without electricity for most of the day.
"I wish we had leaders with compassion," she said, and burst into tears. "All they say on TV is lies. They're garbage."
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