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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Blackout

Dubai rarely suffers from power outages, having a well-developed and (presumably) efficient generation and distribution network. The only major blackout that I can remember was about six years ago.

Oh, and earlier today.

We were unaffected in Jebel Ali (good title for a movie?), and the first inkling I had of the problem was an email from Media City management, explaining that they were running on standby power and it would run out in one hour, so please save your work and think about going home. I was working at home anyway, and had no plans to visit the office today.

I did have a plan to drive into Dubai for Roger's memorial service at 2pm, stopping off somewhere en route for a spot of lunch. This plan went out of the window as we neared Safa Park. Traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road slowed almost to a standstill. We crawled into town, and reached the church at 1.45. A trip that would normally take half an hour had taken three times that. And we were seriously almost out of petrol.

In the church, there was an abundance of candles, but obviously no air conditioning. Amazingly, power was restored a few minutes before the service began.

After the service everybody was invited to Jebel Ali Cemetery for the actual burial, but we had to get gas first. This proved to be more challenging than expected. Despite power having been restored to the area that the church is in, the three petrol stations closest to it were still in the dark. To conserve gas, we had the windows open and the A/C off. Dressed in completely unsuitable heavy black funeral gear, we quickly began to melt.

We found ourselves in Karama, and parked up for a bit. BetterArf called Eppco HQ who reported that the closest working station they had was on Sheikh Zayed Road near Safa Park. No way we could do it, mainly because of the long queues waiting to get onto the highway. We decided to find a nearby hotel that had power and have some lunch and just wait.

BetterArf phoned a few places and discovered that the Movenpick Hotel had just got their power back on. We headed off in that direction and as we neared Maktoum Bridge noticed a set of working traffic lights. And the next gas station after that was open! Yeehaaar.

And the moral of the story. Things like this make me realise just how close we are to meltdown. It's a very scary experience, especially in this climate, and especially in summer. You can only really function at night without A/C. The last time we had a major power outage in Dubai, there was much talk of building a UAE national grid. But it doesn't seem to have happened, so there's still no way to buy in power from neighbouring emirates and economic paralysis sets in very quickly.

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