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African news updates from the BBC - BBC News Africa Live: Anger as Sierra Leone cities remain in the dark for weeks - BBC News
(32 minutes later)
Umaru Fofana By Marcia Veiga, Luxmy Gopal & Adriana Elgueta
BBC Africa, Freetown BBC News
Trhas Tesfay was a champion cyclist in Ethiopia but came to the UK last year to seek asylum.
Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, and other cities have been plunged into darkness for weeks, due to the non-payment of electricity bills to the power providers.
It has severely disrupted daily life, with operations disrupted in major hospitals.
Karpowership, the Turkish ship which supplies most of Freetown's power, has virtually switched off the lights over an unpaid bill of about $48m (£38m), despite repeated assurances by the finance minister to settle the debt.
In a statement, Karpowership said it had reduced electricity supply to six megawatts - from 60 megawatts - to only power essential services.
CLSG, an Ivorian power supplier, has also significantly reduced its supply to the south-eastern cities of Bo, Kenema and Koidu over unpaid arrears. it reduced its supply from 32 megawatts to 10. It is not clear how much the state owes it.
The third major source of electricity to the country is the state-owned hydroelectric dam in the northern town of Bumbuna. It supplies the northern city of Makeni and nearby towns. But it currently supplies only six megawatts due to the peak of the dry season, which has left water levels at their lowest.
A source at the state-owned electricity distribution company (EDSA) said less than two megawatts currently reaches Freetown from the hydro dam.
Finance Minister, Sheku Ahmed Fantamadi Bangura is out of the country and could not be reached for a comment.
Most Sierra Leoneans have taken to social media to express their anger over the incessant power cuts.
“I have gone for six days without a flash of light in my house,” said Joseph Kargbo, who lives in a suburb in the east of Freetown.
Karpowership is one of the world's biggest floating power plant operators, with several African states relying on it for electricity.
But it has taken a tough line over non-payment. Last October, it cut power to Guinea-Bissau's capital over unpaid bills, plunging the city into darkness.
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