Heat wave knocks out Kosovo power, triggers fire

PRISTINA, Jul 7, 2000 -- (Reuters) The heat wave gripping southeastern Europe has contributed to a collapse of Kosovo's power generation system and triggered brush fires and a chemical explosion, officials in the province said on Friday.

Much of Kosovo has had little electricity over the past few days because of a string of technical problems and a shortage of water worsened the situation, said a spokesman for the European Union, which is responsible for utilities in the territory.

The spokesman, Christian Lindmeier, said engineers had to shut down one of only two main generating units in Kosovo on Thursday, partly because a river providing water to the plant had dried up in the long period of extremely high temperatures.

"The unit had to be stopped yesterday afternoon because of insufficient inflow of water into the plant."

The other unit tripped early on Friday morning, leaving the province without almost no indigenously produced electricity.

Nearby countries were unable to spare any power and the province was relying for the moment on a small export from Serbia proper and some hydro-electric power, Lindmeier said.

Temperatures in Kosovo, which has been under international rule since June 1999, have soared above 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in the last few days. Several brush fires broke out in the north of the province, the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force said.

"The fires were kept under observation by KFOR troops and most of the blazes have burned themselves out," said U.S. Army Major Scott Slaten, a KFOR spokesman.

Elsewhere in the territory, a 50-litre tank containing chemicals burst due to high temperatures on Thursday and released chlorine fumes, Slaten said. KFOR and police evacuated the area and the threat dissipated within a couple of hours.

Conditions in Kosovo were cooler on Friday, with weather forecasters predicting a maximum temperature of 33 Celsius (91F) much to the relief of the large number of foreign soldiers, officials and aid workers unused to the recent intense heat.

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