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Power goes out as temperatures hit record

Old buildings with aging systems struggle to handle demand
Aug 04,2018
About 440 apartments in a complex in Goyang, Gyeonggi, lost power on Thursday night, leaving residents without access to air-conditioning or fans for hours. Some resorted to sleeping in their air-conditioned cars until power was restored.

“A blackout occurred at around 9 p.m., and I didn’t get electricity until a little past 3:10 a.m.,” said Joanne Jung, a resident at the apartment in Tanhyeon-dong, Goyang. “We got our first announcement [from maintenance] that they would fix it as soon as possible at around 10 p.m. Another announcement said that they failed to fix it. Come 2:30 a.m., still no electricity and I’m almost dead.”

Two residents were stuck in an elevator during the blackout and were rescued by local firefighters.

Between Thursday evening and Friday morning, apartments in Suwon, Gyeonggi; Bucheon, Gyeonggi; and Incheon also experienced blackouts. The Korea Electronic Power Corporation (Kepco) said the power outages were caused by high demand during a record heat wave mixed with old and poorly maintained systems. There were 91 blackouts in July this year, compared to just 43 last year, according to Kepco.

“Buildings that are more than 25 years old tend to experience power outages 9.5 times more than buildings that are less than 15 years old,” the utility company said in a statement on Wednesday. “Kepco examined the power systems of 20,000 apartment complexes earlier this year to ensure they are up to date and functioning.”

On Wednesday night, about 2,000 apartments at the Eunma complex in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, lost power for about an hour and a half from 7:30 p.m. The building dates back to 1979.

“I fear that the frequent blackouts at my apartment are due to the old power system,” said Mr. Jang, a 61-year-old resident of the Eunma complex. “I’ve been living here for 20 years and experienced quite a number of power or water outages. I think they need to renovate the system as soon as possible.”

The power also went out at the Sunkyung complex in Gangnam District on Wednesday. It dates back to 1983. Another apartment complex in Songpa District, southern Seoul, and one in Goyang lost power the same night as the nighttime temperature remained around 33 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit) until 10 p.m., according to the Korea Meteorological Administration. The temperature did not drop below 30 degrees Celsius on Thursday night.

The meteorological administration said on Friday that these so-called tropical nights, when the evening temperature stays above 25 degrees Celsius, will continue for a while. Daytime temperatures throughout the country will remain higher than 33 degrees Celsius at least until Aug. 12, the weather authority said.

BY ESTHER CHUNG, JIM BULLEY, LEE YE-WON AND PARK HAE-LEE [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]