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Blackouts continue across Egypt

Egypt has been experiencing its worst power outages in decades since the daily dawn-to-dusk fast for the holy month of Ramadan began two weeks ago.

The power cuts have struck at the height of summer, amid temperatures of around 100 degrees, rising food prices and water shortages.

Newspapers publish almost-daily photographs of families huddled in darkness around candles or oil lamps.

Egyptians are venting their frustration on the government, adding to a list of grievances over what critics say is its rampant disregard for anything other than catering to the elite and holding on to power.

"They often cut us off 15 or 20 minutes after iftar," said Ali Ibrahim, a 23-year-old university student who lives in one of Cairo's most crowded, low-income neighbourhoods, referring to the meal eaten after sunset.

"That hardly gives us enough time to pray and eat. What makes it worse is that when the power is off, so is the water. So, you have no electricity, you are sweating and you cannot cool off with a shower," he added. "It's too much."

Last week an angry crowd built barricades of burning tires on a major highway south of Cairo, while the electricity minister has been urged to quit.

The blackouts mostly occur in the evenings for as long as three hours, even in the wealthiest Cairo neighbourhoods. Egyptian officials insist the power cuts are necessary to prevent the national grid from collapsing because of higher-than-usual consumption during the heatwave.

Officials have denied independent media reports that the export of natural gas to Israel has left Egypt with insufficient fuel to run its gas-fired power stations.

The country's estimated generation capacity of 25,000 megawatts has been sorely tested, with consumption exceeding 23,000 megawatts.

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