The 5.2 billion birr Gilgel Gibe II hydro-electric power station 250 km southwest of Addis Ababa has suspended operations just a few days after its official inauguration due to a collapse in a section of the headrace tunnel.

Maintenance and repairs could take up to two months to complete at a cost of 365 million birr. Reinforcement work may also have to be carried out to strengthen other parts of the tunnel, the English-language business weekly Capital Ethiopia reports. In the meantime factories in Ethiopia that use large amounts of power have been asked to halve consumption.

The 420 MW Gilgel Gibe II plant uses water discharged by the 184 MW Gilgel Gibe I hydroelectric power station on the Gilgel Gibe river to the north. This is channelled through a 26 km hydraulic tunnel to the Omo-Gibe river valley, where it uses a 500 m drop to generate electricity.

Construction by the Italian civil engineering company Salini began on the 420 MW Gilgel Gibe II plant in 2004 and the power station started supplying the national grid towards the end of 2009 after numerous technical problems and delays.

Gilgel Gibe II is one of a number of major energy infrastructure projects under construction to reduce the severe power shortage in the country.

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