Update with new photos at 9pm

Swathes of central Malta were without electricity for several hours this morning following a power cut caused by a cable that caught fire in a tunnel.  

The power cut affected parts of Birkirkara, Gzira, San Ġwann, Sliema, St Julian's, Swatar, Swieqi and Ta' Xbiex, with users having first reporting problems at around 10.15am.

Almost all services were restored within half an hour but a second interruption in the same area was necessary as a precaution to allow the Enemalta engineers and technicians, fire fighters and other workers to safely enter the tunnel connecting the Malta-Italy interconnector to the national grid and check the infrastructure within.

During this emergency procedure, all the high voltage cables within the tunnel, including the Malta-Italy iInterconnector, had to be disconnected from the Maltese electricity network.

By around 1.20pm power had been restored to all areas bar some small pockets, an Enemalta spokesman said. Technicians are now in the process of restoring power to Pembroke's reverse osmosis plant, the spokesman said. 

Internal investigations and the necessary repairs are now underway.

Fire fighters gathered at Enemalta's Kappara distribution centre to ensure a suspected fire had been extinguished, entering the tunnel using oxygen tanks. 

An Enemalta representative told journalists that the company had switched all its available power stations to full capacity while the problem was being solved. But with power consumption at a midday high, the network could not cope with demand. 

Minister without Portfolio Konrad Mizzi, who maintains control of government energy projects, was also at the scene. 

In a statement, the Water Services Corporation warned people that water supply in Pembroke, Gzira, Sliema, San Gwann and surrounding areas might be affected by the power cut. 

Shopkeepers in Sliema lowered their shutters and cafes were forced to stop serving customers due to the power cut, with the lack of electricity making it impossible for them to do business. 

Customers seeking assistance were encouraged to contact the Enemalta Customer Care team on 8007 2224.

McDonald's on the Strand has shut its doors due to a lack of electricity.McDonald's on the Strand has shut its doors due to a lack of electricity.

Fire fighters at the scene. Photo: Chris Sant FournierFire fighters at the scene. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

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