Vietnamese suffers power cuts on sultry days

By Quynh Nguyen   June 7, 2023 | 03:27 am PT
After waiting through a blackout for five hours without power, Hong Lan couldn’t take the heat in her house anymore and took her grandson outside to the lake.

For the first time this summer on June 1, a part of Tien Yen Commune in Hoai Duc District, Hanoi, experienced power cuts even though the area was not on the city’s list of planned temporary power cuts.

At first, 70-year-old Lan thought the power would only be off for 10 minutes for maintenance, but the electricity stayed off all afternoon. Her rice was only half-cooked when she lost power, so she had to eat instant noodles for lunch.

After lunch, the grandmother tried to put her 3-year-old grandson to sleep but failed because it was too hot. When the boy didn’t stop crying, she had to take him to the lake near their house to catch some breeze.

"No one wants to be outside during the hottest time of the day, but it’s impossible to stay inside the house," she said.

Hơn chục người dân, đa phần là người già và trẻ nhỏ tập trung quanh hồ nước ở đầu thôn Yên Thái để tránh nóng, chiều 1/6. Ảnh: Quỳnh Nguyễn

Residents of Tien Yen Commune, Hoai Duc District, Hanoi sit by the lake for some breeze after their houses suffered power cut on June 1, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen

When the power was suddenly cut off in Tien Yen Commune at 10 a.m., Doan Thai, 35, was unable to find a way for his three small sons to escape the heat.

When the temperature hit 40 degrees Celsius, Thai wanted to pour water on the floor and yard to cool down, but his house hadn’t had water in a week, and he’d been having to get it from neighbors.

"They cut the electricity and water on the hottest day of the year. Adults could endure it, but children had a hard time," Thai said.

He asked friends in other districts if he could send his kids over to their houses to cool down, but the power was out in their neighborhoods as well. The only thing he could do was use a wet towel and a hand fan to make his sons feel more comfortable.

Power cuts on sizzling hot days have been interrupting people's lives in many Hanoi districts, including Hoan Kiem, Hai Ba Trung, Tay Ho, Ha Dong, Hoang Mai, Bac Tu Liem and Nam Tu Liem.

On June 1 alone, according to a notice by the city’s electricity company EVNHANOI, 46 locations suffered power cuts in 15 districts for between 1-8 hours. In the past week, Hanoi has carried out power cuts at 166 locations.

Một người phụ nữ tại xã Tiền Yên được công ty cho nghỉ làm cả ngày vì mất điện, đang phải lấy tranh ra thêu để quên cơn nóng, chiều 1/6. Ảnh: Quỳnh Nguyễn

A woman in Tien Yen Commune stays home all day due to power cut at her workplace on June 1, 2023. Photo by Vnexpress/Quynh Nguyen

After checking many times to make sure that there would be no power cut on June 1, Hoang Anh in Ha Dong District invited friends to her house for a get-together. But in the early morning, the 32-year-old woman was informed that power in her neighborhood would indeed be cut that day, so she had to change her plans.

"Why do they have to cut off electricity on the hottest days?" Hoang Anh wondered.

Many more people have been asking the same question.

EVN Hanoi has reported that it does not implement planned rotating power cuts, especially on days over 36 degrees Celsius, except when the safety of the power line is at risk.

According to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ngo Tri Long, former director of the Institute for Market Price Research at the Ministry of Finance, power cuts on hot days are inevitable not only in Hanoi, but in most other provinces and cities as well, thanks to dwindling supply and surging demand.

Statistics from EVN Hanoi show that the electricity consumption in May was more than 68 billion kilowatts per hour, an increase of 10.7% compared to April.

Demand for electricity in HCMC has also been skyrocketing. EVN HCMC said that in the first 20 days of May, the average power output reached nearly 95 million kilowatts per hour a day, which is the city's highest consumption rate ever.

Although updates to power cut plans are often sent to HCMC residents’ phones, many have said that sometimes blackouts happen without warning.

Mai Thuong, 30, from District 3, said that on the morning of May 16, she woke up early due to a power cut. When Thuong saw her 2-year-old son cry due to sweating, Thuong had to start the car and turn on the air conditioner to get him back to sleep.

After sitting in the car for quite a while, the electricity didn’t come back on, so Thuong had to take her son to a coffee shop to deal with the heat.

Một hộ gia đình ở Chương Mỹ, Hà Nội ra ngoài đường hóng mát khi huyện này bị cắt điện cả ngày 1/6. Ảnh: Gia Chính

A household in Chuong My District, Hanoi went outside in the evening to cool off during a power cut on June 1, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Chinh

"This is only a temporary solution because the shops are noisy and crowded, and I don’t want to sit there for too long. I’m planning to buy fans and power-saving lights, in case of sudden power cuts," Thuong said.

The National Center for Hydrometeorological Forecasting has predicted that the heat increase June-August and many new high-temperature records would be set.

To avoid overload to the system, EVN recommends that people m turn off unnecessary electrical equipment, limit the use of high-capacity electrical appliances during peak hours (from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.), don’t use more than one electrical appliance at the same time to avoid overloading the power grid and prevent the risk of fire and explosion.

At 8 p.m. on June 1, the electricity was restored to Tien Yen Commune.

"If we are notified of power cuts in advance, we can prepare and find a suitable way to avoid the heat. But we can’t deal with sudden power cut like this. Fighting the heat is tiring enough," Lan said.

* Names of characters have been changed.

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