Power Outages Plague Iraq

Elizabeth Palmer, Iraq, Power Grid
All through the bombing, power from the Al Dora Plant kept the lights on in Baghdad reports CBS News Correspondent Elizabeth Palmer.

But a combination of looting and sabotage finally shut it down. Iraqis had no electricity for 36 hours and in the 120-degree heat, they were desperate — swarming ice vendors and paying triple of what they did under Saddam for blocks needed at home to save food from spoiling.

"The Americans just came here and promised so much. But they've just hurt us," an Iraqi woman told Palmer.

The U.S. administration in Iraq knows that restoring electricity is crucial. But there can be no power without security.

"Our crews are somewhat afraid of being robbed, being mugged, being killed," says Peter Gibson, a U.S. electricity adviser. "We've had people killed for doing their job."

Repair crews have reported 2,000 incidents of damage to the power grid in six weeks. Some were strategic attacks.

Baghdad's power system is a saboteur's dream. The city relies on electricity brought in from across the country. So there are literally thousands of pylons and sub-stations — all of them vulnerable to attack.

Power station manager Bachman Jenan says the grid is almost impossible to protect.

No power also means no water, because the pumping stations are electric. So poor Iraqis headed for the sewage filled river today.

Power grid sabotage could end up causing a cholera epidemic — the last thing the beleaguered Americans need.