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Power failure hits Damascus, southern Syria

By The Associated Press

This article was published January 21, 2013 at 9:23 a.m.

— The Syrian government Monday blamed a rebel attack on a key power line for a blackout that hit Damascus and much of the country’s south overnight, leaving residents cold and in the dark amid a fuel crisis that has stranded many at home.

Meanwhile, Syria’s main opposition postponed the selection of a prime minister and the formation of a transitional government to run the country should the regime of President Bashar Assad fall, highlighting the continued failure of Assad’s opponents to unite behind a shared leader or vision nearly two years into the country’s crisis.

While Damascus’s 2.5 million residents have grown used to frequent power cuts as the country’s conflict has damaged infrastructure and sapped the government’s finances, they said Monday that the overnight failure was the first to darken the entire capital since the conflict began.

The blackout hit residents especially hard because of rampant fuel shortages and the winter cold that pushed temperatures below freezing overnight. Getting gas requires waiting in hours-long lines at stations, and cooking fuel and diesel for portable heaters has grown scarce and expensive — forcing people to find other ways to keep warm.

“We covered ourselves from the cold in blankets because there was no diesel or electricity for the heaters,” said retired teacher Mariam Ghassan, 60. “We changed our whole lives to get organized for power cuts, but now we have no idea when the power will come or go.”

At its height, the outage engulfed all of Damascus and extended to an area at least 31 miles north to the town of Zabadani and across the southern provinces of Daraa and Sweida that abut the Jordanian border.

By midday Monday, power had returned to more than half of the capital, and Electricity Minister Imad Khamis said authorities were working to restore it in other areas.

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