The electricity supply to the North Sinai cities of Rafah and Sheikh Zuwayed has been restored, according to a statement issued by North Sinai Governorate. The area has been without electricity for two weeks.
The main electricity line took a long time to repair, according to the statement, as it was damaged in several different locations, over long distances. The cause of these damages is not mentioned.
“Extraordinary efforts” were taken by electricity sector officials in the governorate to restore electricity to both the towns of Rafah and Sheikh Zuwayed, along with the surrounding villages, the statement went on.
Due to the lack of running water in most of the area, residents depend on citizen-funded wells and water treatment units, which because they run on electricity, have subsequently also been down.
The two cities, in the heart of violent battles between Islamist armed groups and security forces, which have escalated since 2013, have been suffering from a growing crisis in services. The current blackout is the longest yet, however.
According to locals, the maintenance team succeeded in reattaching the cable in its latest attempt to restore services last Thursday, but they then discovered another malfunction which was then repaired on Sunday.
“We have been living like we’ve gone back 100 years,” said a Sheikh Zuwayed resident, speaking to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity. “We can’t even use generators because they have been banned in Rafah and Sheikh Zuwayed by security orders.”
The resident described how people have been resorting to charging their phones in their cars, adding that they have no capacity to store food and have been using salty water to do laundry in order to save potable water for cooking and drinking.
Security forces prohibit the passage of several products, most importantly gas, into the two cities which have been under a night curfew that begins at 7 pm for the past four years.
According to two residents and local news sources, the electrical cable was hit by a rocket on March 20, a weekly occurrence in the past few years.
Another resident of Sheikh Zuwayed told Mada Masr, “We get electricity for three days, the cable gets hit, they fix it in four days and then in another three days it gets hit again. That’s how it’s been for years now.”
The resident reported that some people have not showered in over 10 days in order to save the little water that they have for essential uses, not knowing when they will get more.
Maintenance teams attempting to fix the cable came under heavy fire three times throughout the last two weeks.
A team from Suez was hit with heavy fire on two consecutive days in the first week of the blackout, which led to the death of one member of the team and injury of others, forcing the team to withdraw. Another team was similarly attacked last week on its first attempt, before it was able to reattach the cable on Thursday, only to discover another malfunction responsible for the continued blackout.
Two independent sources in touch with the first maintenance team told Mada Masr that both teams fully coordinated their movements with security.
Mada Masr tried to reach the Electricity Ministry spokesperson for comment, but received no response.