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Blackout hits Russia resort Sochi, leaves 400,000 without power

Strong winds and heavy snow battered the Russian Black Sea resort Sochi, cutting power to 400,000 people and interrupting train service and sewage treatment in a city seeking to host the 2014 Winter Olympics.

„Power lines snapped in the high wind and under the weight of the snow” last night, Viktor Beltsov, a spokesman for the Emergency Ministry in Moscow, said by telephone. Locomotives were brought in to haul electric trains stalled by the cut, stranding passengers, the ministry said on its Web site.

Repair crews worked throughout the night to fix severed lines in mountainous areas inaccessible by foot, said Tatiana Milyaeva, spokeswoman for national power utility OAO Unified Energy System. Sochi's main power station was working at half capacity at 10 a.m. local time, Unified said in a statement. Weather conditions are improving, reducing the chances of further disruptions and allowing repair crews to intensify their work, Milyaeva said. „The company hopes that all the problems will be fixed in the nearest future,” she said.

Russia is restrucruring its largely Soviet-era power sector to attract some of the €69.4 billion ($90 billion) the government says it needs to avoid blackouts and meet surging demand in an economy expanding for a ninth-straight year. Moscow suffered a blackout in May, 2005, that halted traffic and stock trading. Seven months later, Unified Energy cut supplies to some industrial users in the Russian capital to avoid another blackout amid a record cold snap. (Bloomberg)