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Libyan city Benghazi plunges into darkness as fighting hits power plants

Libya's eastern city of Benghazi has been plunged into darkness as clashes between pro-government forces and Islamist fighters have knocked out three of five power stations serving the city, the country's second largest, officials said on Monday.

Power has been off for 16 hours a day in the port city where forces loyal to the official government based in the east have been fighting Islamist groups for 15 months in a battle that has turned parts of Benghazi into ruins.

A spokesman at state power firm GECOL in Benghazi said output at the gas-fired main power plant was still stable at 650 megawatts on average a day, but three sub-stations distributing electricity inside the city had been damaged.

He said ongoing fighting made it impossible to reach the damaged stations, adding that the state power firm was running out of spare parts. A turbine needed to be repaired but a German firm that used to do the maintenance work had pulled out and was refusing to send any engineers to Benghazi.

The closure of the city's port due to the fighting also made it difficult to import spare parts, he said, asking not to be named.

The Benghazi fighting highlights the chaos in Libya, where armed groups back two governments vying for control. The official prime minister has been based in the east since the capital, Tripoli, was seized by a rival group which set up its own government.

Both sides command loose coalitions of former anti-Gaddafi rebels. After the ouster of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the various factions split along political, regional and tribal lines.(Reuters)

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