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Taiwan's president apologises for blackout affecting millions

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Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen publicly apologised for power outages that left more than 6 million households across the island without electricity for several hours Tuesday.

[TAIPEI] Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen publicly apologised for power outages that left more than 6 million households across the island without electricity for several hours Tuesday.

The blackouts came as a combination of unusually hot weather, damage to infrastructure from recent typhoons and a push by Ms Tsai's administration to abandon nuclear power left Taiwan barely able to supply sufficient electricity to residential and business users. That balance gave way just before 5pm on Tuesday when a plant in northern Taiwan stopped generating power after workers accidentally shut off its supply of natural gas.

Electricity had been restored by 10 pm but not before Lee Chih-kung, Ms Tsai's economy minister, had offered his resignation for the handling of the situation. An article occupying the entire front page of Wednesday's China Times newspaper questioned the competence of Ms Tsai's administration for allowing the situation to deteriorate so badly and her insistence on phasing out nuclear.

A man was killed and his elderly mother injured when candles caused a fire in their home last night, the Apple Daily newspaper reported. No other deaths or injuries were reported.

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There had been multiple warnings about Taiwan's electricity supply before the blackouts.

A week earlier, state-run utility Taiwan Power Co issued a red alert as the operating reserve margin, the difference between power produced and consumed, fell to the second lowest on record. Business associations including the Chinese National Federation of Industries had also called for slowing the pace at which nuclear plants have been phased out.

Ms Tsai has shown no indication of abandoning her position, which formed a key component of a campaign that swept her into office more than a year ago. Taiwan has has already mothballed one of its four nuclear power stations, and of the six remaining reactors available, three are currently shut down for maintenance.

In addition to apologising late Tuesday, the statement Ms Tsai posted to her Facebook page also included a reiteration of her determination to push forward with phasing out nuclear power in favor of renewable energy.

"The government is promoting distributed green energy to avoid the situation where an incident at a single power station can affect the power supply for the whole country," Ms Tsai wrote. "We will not change course. Today's incident only makes us more determined."

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