Power Station Fire, Explosions Cut Off Power in Much of Iraq in Scorching Summer Heat, Officials Say

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Power was cut off in large swaths of southern and central Iraq for much of Saturday during scorching summer heat and observances of the Shiite holy day of Ashoura after a fire broke out at a power station in the southern city of Basra.

The fire at the Al-Bkir substation in Basra resulted in the separation of transmission lines linking the southern and central regions, leading to a complete shutdown of the electrical system in the area, Iraq's Ministry of Electricity said in a statement. It said the fire was accidental.

The power outage came as the electrical system faces other challenges, including fuel shortages and surging demands for electricity during a major heat wave. On Saturday, temperatures reached 47 degrees Celsius (116.6 degrees Farenheit).

Also on Saturday, the company that handles electricity transmission in the north reported that the northern transmission line in a remote area outside the city of Haditha in western Iraq had been sabotaged. Three towers were hit by improvised explosive devices, putting the line out of service, the statement said.

It did not say who was responsible for the attack.

Staff were not initially able to repair the damage on Friday due to security issues, the statement said. Islamic State cells and other armed groups are active in the remote desert area. On Saturday, workers were able to access the site with the help of security forces and begin repair work.

The Ministry of Electricity ordered the formation of committees to investigate both incidents.

The power blackout had a domino effect on other services, with Baghdad Municipality attributing a disruption in tap water supply to the outage caused by the fire in Basra. The municipality said it was trying to run water pumps using generators to limit the impact on citizens.

Earlier this month, Iraq signed a $27 billion deal with TotalEnergies that many hope will help resolve Iraq's longstanding electricity crisis, attract international investors and reduce its reliance on gas imports from neighboring Iran.