* Attack on Oct. 15, one of series in country since August
* Damaged turbine responsible for 15 pct of national output
YAMOUSSOUKRO, Nov 16 (Reuters) - One of Ivory Coast’s main power plants has been repaired after an armed raid slashed its capacity in half last month, and it is now fully operational, the facility’s manager said on Friday.
Dozens of gunmen attacked the Azito thermal station in Abidjan on Oct. 15, causing damage that forced the shutdown of one of its two turbines, each of which are responsible for around 15 percent of the country’s power output.
“The turbine was repaired by our services. It is now operational ... We were down by 150 megawatts after the attack, but that is now available again,” manager Luc Aye said on the sidelines of an energy conference.
Ivory Coast is struggling to cope with a series of armed attacks that began in early August and have been blamed on supporters of former president Laurent Gbagbo, whose refusal to accept defeat in late 2010 polls led to a brief civil war last year.
The attack on the power plant, run by a subsidiary of UK-based electricity provider Globeleq, was the first to target high-profile infrastructure in the world’s top cocoa producer.
“Security has been reinforced. Gendarmes and police have been deployed to guard the plant. And as a private operator, we have put in place extra security measures, including camera surveillance,” Aye said.
The government also boosted security at other power- producing sites in the West African nation, which has an enviably reliable power supply by regional standards.
Ivory Coast currently exports electricity to regional neighbours Ghana, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo and Mali.
The government is investing heavily in power production under President Alassane Ouattara to keep up with domestic and regional demand and has plans to add Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone to its grid.
Aye said the attacks would not derail plans to expand Azito’s capacity from 300 to 430 megawatts.
“The cost of the project is around 210 billion CFA francs ($409.5 million). We signed financing agreements with donors in Paris on Oct. 18. Work will start in the first quarter of 2013 and finish the end of 2014 or early 2015,” he said.