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(LEAD) Unexpected heat wave leads to temporary blackouts
SEOUL, Sept. 15 (Yonhap) -- Unseasonably high temperatures, coupled with reduced electricity production due to maintenance, caused blackouts in many parts of South Korea on Thursday.

   Electric power outages were reported in various parts of Seoul, including the financial district of Yeouido, and many areas throughout the country, according to the Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO), the country's sole power service provider.

   An investigation was underway to identify the exact cause of the outages, but the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said an initial probe suggested the temporary shutdown of power plants for maintenance and unexpectedly high demand may have caused the problem.

   The KEPCO said it was forced to temporarily cut off the power supply to thousands of homes throughout the country, including 100,000 houses in Gangwon Province alone, as the country's electricity reserve rate fell to as low as 6 percent, far below the 7 percent level that is considered the safe margin.

   A depletion of power reserves could cause a nationwide blackout, which could take days or even weeks to repair, according to ministry officials.

   "There were many power plants that began their annual maintenance as the hot season passed. Demand was unusually high today while they were preparing for the cold season," a ministry official said.

   bdk@yna.co.kr
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