Danger from poor electrical work in Iraq

IRAQ - Inferior electrical work by private contractors on U.S. military bases in Iraq is more widespread than the Pentagon has acknowledged, according to a published report.

A Senate panel investigating the electrocutions of Americans on bases in Iraq was told by former KBR Inc. electricians that the contractor used employees with little electrical expertise to supervise subcontractors in Iraq and hired foreigners who couldn't speak English. The Pentagon has said 13 Americans have been electrocuted in Iraq since September 2003. It has ordered Houston-based KBR to inspect all the facilities it maintains in Iraq for electrical hazards.

The New York Times reported on its Web site that many more people have been injured, some seriously, by shocks, according to internal Army documents. A log compiled this year at one building complex in Baghdad disclosed that soldiers complained of receiving electrical shocks in their living quarters almost daily, the paper reported.

During just one six-month period — August 2006 through January 2007 — at least 283 electrical fires destroyed or damaged American military facilities in Iraq, including the military's largest dining hall in the country, according to the documents obtained by the Times.

An Army survey issued in February 2007 said electrical problems were the most urgent noncombat safety hazard for soldiers in Iraq.

KBR, which is responsible for providing basic services, including housing, for American troops in Iraq, said last week that its investigation had not turned up evidence of a link between its work and the electrocutions. The Army report, however, said KBR did its own study and found a "systemic problem" with electrical work, according to the Times.


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