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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May, 2005, 12:20 GMT 13:20 UK
Moscow blackout stuns press
Russian press graphic

Russian papers are describing Wednesday's major power cut in Moscow in apocalyptic terms, with several papers dubbing it "the end of the world".

Gazeta called the blackout the "biggest energy emergency" in Russia's history, while Rossiskaya Gazeta spoke of "real panic" in the parts of Moscow affected.

"Without warning the metro stopped, the trolleybuses and trams ground to a halt, and televisions and the internet died," the paper said.

"It was practically impossible to phone anyone to find out what was happening - mobile phone services were overloaded and jammed."

'Terrifying'

Moscow's Moskovsky Komsomolets headline - "Disaster! It's the end of the world!" - was typical for Thursday's papers. Among the services hit were several hospitals.

Doctors had to use battery-powered torches
Hospital worker

"The most terrifying thing was that the resuscitation systems switched off," the paper quoted one hospital receptionist as saying.

"The lights went out during operations, and the doctors had to use battery-powered torches."

One of the paper's reporters saw scenes of panic-buying outside a metro station as people were unsure whether the power failure was a terrorist attack.

"For some reason everybody piled into the nearby shops, and some started feverishly buying groceries", she said.

Keeping a cool head

Some Muscovites, though, were more cool-headed. "Taxi drivers immediately bumped up their fares" after the metro stopped running, according to the reporter.

One eyewitness told Kommersant of the scene when the power failed inside a metro station.

"Suddenly the lights went out. People started to walk down the escalators. A huge number of people gathered on the platforms, everybody standing in darkness", she said.

"There were about five to six policemen and several controllers, but they offered no explanations. 'Use surface transport!' was all you could get out of them."

Never say never...

Papers have already started to debate who may be to blame, with Russia's high-profile national grid chief Anatoly Chubais an early candidate for some.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta headlines its report on the blackout "Apocalypse Chubais-style".

The country exists in a permanent state of latent technical catastrophe
Vremya Novostei

Kommersant pointedly reminds its readers of what Mr Chubais said a day after a major blackout hit parts of eastern United States and Canada in August 2003.

"Such large-scale power cuts have never happened, and can never happen in Russia," he is quoted as having said then.

However, most mainstream papers - many with strong commercial ties - shy away from directly calling for Mr Chubais's head.

Vremya Novostei is more worried by what the blackout says about the state of Russia's infrastructure.

"Russia's systems are so worn-out that the country exists in a permanent state of latent technical catastrophe," the paper concludes.

"One only has to wait to see where it will happen next - and not even Chubais can be blamed for that."

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaus abroad.




SEE ALSO:
Moscow recovers after power cut
26 May 05 |  Europe
World gripped by power blackout
15 Aug 03 |  In Depth
Profile: Anatoly Chubais
17 Mar 05 |  Europe


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