Vietnam massive outage under probe; losses unlikely paid

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Part of the power grid in the southern province of Binh Duong where a crane truck hit a cable and caused a massive outage on May 22

Police have said they will press charges against people responsible for causing the massive power shutdown in southern Vietnam this week, but it seems unlikely that electricity consumers will be paid compensation.

News website VnExpress quoted them as saying Friday that they are investigating three people who allegedly let a tree they were lowering from their crane truck hit a power cable in Binh Duong.

It led to an outage in 22 southern provinces and cities, paralyzing traffic and the functioning of schools, hospitals, businesses and other establishments.

It also caused an outage in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, which gets 40 percent of its electricity from Vietnam.

It is believed that the mishap occurred when truck driver Ngo Tan Thao was lowering a tree into a garden near the north-south 500kV power grid, and the tree, estimated to be 17.5 meters tall, hit a power cable.

Thao's assistant Nguyen Trung Thanh and Huynh Van Hien, who manages the garden, are also likely to be charged.

Thanh Nien discovered that the garden, located right next to the grid belongs to the industrial investment and development firm Becamex IDC.

VnExpress said related agencies are working out the losses.

Though it was "unexpected," it has caused a loss to the economy and affected the power grid, so charges would "definitely" be pressed against those responsible, the police were quoted as saying.

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Meanwhile, asked if it would pay compensation to customers who suffered losses due to the massive blackout, a spokesman for power monopoly Electricity of Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City said no since it was a "force majeure."

A Ministry of Industry and Trade official told Tuoi Tre newspaper that there is no basis to ask EVN for compensation since the incident was a "force majeure."

But Vo Quang Lam, head of public relations at EVN, told Thanh Nien that payment of compensation depends on the terms of the contract with a customer.

Nguyen Sa Linh of the HCMC Bar Association told Tuoi Tre that authorities need to investigate if EVN followed all regulations governing power grid security like issuing warnings against carrying on work near the grid before concluding the incident was a force majeure.

If it did not, the company would have to take responsibility, he said.

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