Equatorial Guinea's economic capital 'without power for two weeks'

A seaside promenade in Bata, Equatorial Guinea on January 19, 2015 (AFP Photo/Khaled Desouki) (AFP/File)

Malabo (Equatorial Guinea) (AFP) - A drought and a surge in demand for electricity have left the residents of Equatorial Guinea's economic capital of Bata virtually without power for two weeks, authorities and residents said Wednesday.

The government has urged Bata's hundreds of thousands of residents to be "patient".

"We have a special situation this year, there is too much drought. Bata has grown a lot in recent times, the demand for electricity has surged," Gabriel Mbega Obiang Lima, the minister for mines, industry and energy, said on national television.

The western port city of Bata is supplied with power from a hydroelectric dam at Djibloho built by China, with a capacity of 120 MW, and located on the river Wole.

But the water level has dropped severely due to drought.

"It's devastation and we are distraught," a resident, Ernesto Obama, told AFP by telephone.

"Our food in the fridge is rotten, which means spending twice as much to feed ourselves."

The energy minister, one of the sons of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, said the state electricity company SEGESA should prioritise strategic sites such as hospitals and military camps.

In a statement, SEGESA said that power may be restored in "one or two months".

The situation is all the more paradoxical since the tiny west African nation is the third largest exporter of oil in sub-Saharan Africa, an industry that generates around 95 percent of its income.

But many of its citizens still live in poverty and the country has been under Obiang Nguema's iron-fisted rule for 36 years.

The population of Bata is growing fast, with expatriates from China, Cameroon, Mali and Burkina Faso pouring in to work in the oil industry.