Chinese engineer Zhang Yuxian (L) works with an Iraqi colleague at Wassit Thermal Power Plant in Wassit province, Iraq, on Sept. 16, 2020. (Xinhua)
BAGHDAD, Sept. 25 (Xinhua) -- Situated on the bank of the Tigris in southern Iraq's Wassit province, a Chinese-built power plant has stabilized Iraq's electricity supply amid the extreme heat of summer and continued crises of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wassit Thermal Power Plant, constructed and operated by Shanghai Electric Group, is the largest thermal power plant in Iraq. It has become the backbone of the power supply to Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, securing approximately 20 percent of Iraq's national power grid.
The country was gripped by summer heat with mounting pressure on the power supply. Meanwhile, Iraq witnessed the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Arabic world due to easing of restrictions and noncompliance with prevention measures.
"The highest temperature at the power plant reached 53 Celsius degrees," Lu Guoqing, a 57-year-old senior engineer at the plant, told Xinhua. "We are challenged by the pandemic and high temperatures, but we have successfully completed our task." Lu has worked at the site for 14 consecutive months.
As of Sept. 15, the power plant has produced 10.06 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity this year to play an important role in the reopening of Iraq's economy, according to Lu.
Meanwhile, China helps provide more than electricity at the plant.
"The number of Iraqi staff from the Ministry of Electricity was greatly reduced during lockdowns," Lu said. "When Iraqi staff faced shortages of masks, the Chinese side donated 100,000 masks to them."
Zhan Yuxian, a 33-year-old engineer from Chinese city of Wuhan, has been working at the plant site since 2012.
"The COVID-19 pandemic teaches us how to stick to our duties in a tough situation," Zhan said.
Currently, 310 Chinese personnels work at the project site. Most have been unable to visit their families in China for more than a year.
Many Iraqis who work with the Shanghai Electric Group have praised the company and its personnel for their efforts in providing electric power, job opportunities, and support to Iraq.
"I hope the Iraqi government could reach an agreement with China to build more power plants in Iraq," said Omer Hammoud, an Iraqi employee of Shanghai Electric. "The project is huge and successful, and such projects can solve the problem of power shortages in Iraq."
Another engineer Amir Jasim said the Chinese company is applying strict COVID-19 preventive measures at the plant's site, including social distancing, sterilization, and adherence to health instructions.
"The company is doing a wonderful job working on providing electricity in Iraq despite difficult circumstances," Jasim added. "I hope that Shanghai Electric will implement more electric power projects in Iraq." Enditem