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Last Updated: Friday, 3 October, 2003, 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK
Swiss to probe Italy power cuts
By Imogen Foulkes
BBC correspondent in Bern

Switzerland says it is to launch an official investigation into the events surrounding last week's power blackouts in Italy.

The move follows criticism from the Italian authorities that the Swiss did not inform them quickly enough about damage to electricity lines.

Romans caught by the blackout
The blackouts left thousands stranded
It also comes in response to news that not one, but two major power lines from Switzerland to Italy went down in the run up to the blackout.

The formal investigation will reconstruct the events leading up to the power blackout.

Log books will be reopened, measurements re-examined and Swiss power workers on duty at the time will be questioned.

The Swiss authorities are tired of the war of words with Italy, but they are also uncomfortable at the latest evidence which proves that not one, as originally stated, but two major power lines from Switzerland to Italy were disrupted in the 20 minutes before the black out.

They were both apparently damaged by trees blowing against them, causing electrical arcs which knocked out the power supply.

Conflicting claims

The Italians say the Swiss did not inform them quickly enough of the damage.

The Swiss say they did issue a warning, but the Italians did not respond fast enough.

The purpose of the investigation is to find out exactly who said and did what and when.

Results of the inquiry are due by the end of this month.

In the meantime, Swiss, French and Italian power companies have been discussing ways to improve co-operation in the event of further major blackouts.

Italy launches blackout inquiry
30 Sep 03  |  Europe
Q and A: Power blackouts
29 Sep 03  |  Europe
In pictures: Italy blackout
28 Sep 03  |  Photo Gallery

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