Telly Nathalia, Jakarta – Police will look at the possibility of sabotage in their investigation of the cause of the massive electricity blackout that affected the greater Jakarta area, parts of Banten and 15 districts in West Java on Sunday, a spokesman said on Tuesday.
State-owned utility Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) has apologized for the power outage that affected nearly 70 million people and which resulted in economic losses that may run into trillions of rupiah.
The blackout also impacted transportation, especially in Jakarta, where the city's new mass rapid transit system and commuter trains ground to a halt, while nonfunctioning traffic lights caused serious congestion on the roads. Electronic payment systems and cellular networks were also affected.
The utility company said the problem was caused by interconnection problems in its Ungaran-Pemalang high-voltage transmission system in Central Java, which distributes power to West Java, Jakarta and Banten.
PLN spokesman I Made Suprateka said on Monday that stray branches of sengon trees (Albizia chinensis) had come into contact with high-voltage cables, causing a short-circuit.
The company said it would compensate affected consumers by giving them a 20 percent to 35 percent discount on their August electricity bills, or on their next prepaid credit top-up.
"A team from the police's Criminal Investigation Agency [Bareskrim] will conduct a comprehensive investigation into the blackout," National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday.
He said all possible causes, including sabotage, will be investigated as Indonesia had experienced power outages due to sabotage in 2012.
In a shock announcement on Tuesday, PLN said it would dock employees' salaries to compensate customers affected by Sunday's power outage.
PLN acting president director Sripeni Inten Cahyani said during a House of Representatives hearing that the company would take Rp 839 billion ($58,700) from its operational budget to compensate 21.9 million customers who were affected by the blackout.
However, PLN director Djoko Raharjo Abumanan told Antara news agency that this would not affect the wellbeing of the company's 40,000 employees.