A view of a mesh of raised electricity lines along a street in a suburb of Lebanon's capital Beirut. Image Credit: AFP

BEIRUT: The owners of private generators that provide a vital backup to Lebanon’s decrepit power grid have warned of their own cuts due to lack of fuel as the country’s economic crisis deepens.

The national network run by Electriciti du Liban is prone to blackouts and in some areas only manages to provide power for two hours a day.

That forces many Lebanese to pay a separate bill for a backup from neighbourhood generators run by private firms.

Vehicles on the lane adjacent to the petrol station queue up for fuel in Saadiyat on the Beirut-Sidon highway, south of the Lebanese captial on June 24, 2021 amidst severe fuel shortages. - The head of Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah on June 8 said that the country could soon be forced to rely on fuel imports from Iran, amid an ongoing economic collapse. Lebanon has been facing a fuel crisis in recent months, with long queues at service stations and some drivers waiting more than an hour to buy even small quantities of supplies.

With the Lebanese economy facing its worst crisis in a generation and the currency in freefall, private suppliers have warned they are struggling to secure enough fuel to keep running.

The crisis is so acute that on Wednesday the lights went out in a building belonging to the foreign ministry, forcing employees to stop work, Lebanese media reported.

“Generator owners in several regions started telling customers on Wednesday that they would not be able to provide electricity for lack of mazout,” a widely used petrol derivative, said Abdu Saadeh, head of a syndicate for generator owners.

“We had warned late last week that the stocks would start running dry... and so far we haven’t found a solution.”

Lebanon has been roiled since autumn 2019 by an economic crisis the World Bank says is likely to rank among the world’s worst financial crises since the mid-19th century.

The collapse has sparked outrage at Lebanon’s political class, seen as woefully corrupt and unable to tackle the country’s many difficulties.

Officials have blamed the current fuel shortages on stockpiling by traders and a surge of fuel smuggling into Syria.

Several people have been arrested on suspicion of smuggling in recent weeks, according to the police.

The central bank has set up a mechanism to subsidise fuels by up to 85 per cent, but fuel importers have accused it of failing to implement the programme.

The head of public internet provider Ogero has warned that electricity cuts could also threaten Lebanon’s access to the web.