(p. A4) BEIRUT, Lebanon — The second the light above Hasmik Tutunjian’s bed came on at midnight, she said a prayer of thanks and got up quickly. She did not know how much time she had before she would be plunged back into darkness.
First, Ms. Tutunjian, 66, stripped the sheets off the bed — soaked with sweat from Beirut’s stifling and humid heat. She grabbed a phone charger hanging on a hook next to a tote bag that reads, “Keep Calm and Carry On,” and plugged it in. Then she moved into the living room to plug in three chargeable lights. Finally, she put in the first of as many loads of laundry as the electricity would allow.
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Power cuts have long been a part of life in this country because of a dysfunctional electricity sector. But over the past year, they have worsened with acute fuel shortages leading to severe blackouts across Lebanon and state-supplied power coming on for only an hour or two a day — at most — and on no set schedule.
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. . . with Lebanese inflation rising to 168 percent in the year that ended in July , and unemployment skyrocketing, a dwindling number of people can afford the extra generator power. And some of the generators provide only a few amps — enough to power a refrigerator, a fan and the television.
Ms. Tutunjian cannot afford any amps.
She has a chargeable fan, but the power does not come on long enough to fully charge it. She tries to cool herself with a folding fan, which does little to fight the suffocating heat of a Beirut summer.
“Sometimes I tell myself I’m not going to get sad, but I can’t help it,” she said, sitting in her living room. “At night, I get into bed angry, I cry.”
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Last month, an armed 42-year-old man held a Beirut bank hostage for hours, demanding that he be allowed to withdraw his entire life’s savings — more than $200,000. But the amount far exceeded the paltry caps on cash withdrawals.
He said he needed the money to pay for an operation for his father, and threatened to kill everyone inside the bank and to set himself on fire.
“That man, good what he did,” Ms. Tutunjian said.
Eventually, he was allowed to take out a small portion of his savings in exchange for his surrender and arrest. He became an instant hero, capturing a nation’s frustrations, and was released days later amid an outpouring of public support.
“He said he’ll do it again,” Ms. Tutunjian said.
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(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)
(Note: the online version was updated on Sept. 21, 2022, and has the title “Oppressive Blackouts Force Lebanese to Change Rhythm of Life.”)