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Page last updated at 17:07 GMT, Wednesday, 18 June 2008 18:07 UK

Zanzibar celebrates power return

By Frederica Boswell
BBC News, Zanzibar

Residents of Stone Town in Zanzibar
Residents of Stone Town in Zanzibar have been without electricity for four weeks

Residents of Tanzania's Zanzibar island are celebrating the return of the island's power supplies four weeks after they were cut off.

In the historic Stone Town, women, men, and children sang: "Leo umeme washa" - "Today the power has come on".

There are reports that some areas will have to wait longer because cables have been stolen, but in Stone Town the drone of generators has been silenced.

A surge caused a connection to collapse between underwater and overland cables.

The power resumed on Wednesday morning, first in Stone Town and then in neighbouring districts.

For the past month, those shops who could not afford spending nearly $10 a day on generator fuel, have waited in darkness.

In the market area of Darajani, bookshop owner Farouk Karim explains that the past month has been disastrous for the shop.

Everyone is smiling
Stone Town resident

"We deal in the business of newspapers and that needs light. It was not a profitable month at all. This is a modern world and for a country to have no power for a month is a real shame."

Outside in the streets of Stone Town, the mood is festive.

A friend says there is similar jubilation in his neighbourhood on the other side of Stone Town.

"Everyone is smiling, and it is like a holiday today because the power is back," he says.

While less than 25% of Africans have regular access to electricity, Zanzibar has really suffered without it.

'Alternative'

The tourists are starting to arrive as the low season ends, and the hotels will be grateful that their profits will no longer be sunk into generator fuel costs.

The tourists seemed oblivious to the extent of the problem as their drinks were still cold and showers hot - but sometimes at a crippling cost of thousands of dollars a day to the owners.

Local huts selling various artworks and paintings on a beach in Zanzibar
Tourism is the mainstay of Zanzibar's economy

The team of South African engineers who eventually fixed the problem at the Fumba substation are confident that it is a permanent solution, but the past month has raised questions about how long the islands can continue to get all their power from mainland Tanzania.

The Zanzibari government is confident that it has not lost support over the issue, but is aware that lessons must be learned.

This according to Deputy Chief Minister Ali Juma Shamhuna could involve looking towards wind, gas and maybe wave power.

"We should now go vigorously looking for any alternative source of power to have a safety net, just in case this should happen again."

"Hopefully, this will never happen again. Hopefully..." Mr. Shamhuna says.


SEE ALSO
Melting in Zanzibar's blackout
30 May 08 |  Africa
Regions and territories: Zanzibar
29 Feb 08 |  Country profiles
Power-sharing deal for Zanzibar
18 Mar 08 |  Africa


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