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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Power Back On in Sochi Following Outages

Officials said Friday that electricity had been fully restored to hundreds of thousands of homes after winter weather led to power outages in the Black Sea resort that is bidding to host the 2014 Winter Olympics.

High winds and heavy snowfalls pulled down power lines across Sochi, located at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains in a nearly 150-kilometer stretch of coastline, cutting electricity supplies to the city's 400,000 residents.

Officials earlier in the week said electricity had been restored in full, but the lights went out a second time, snarling traffic, bringing business to a halt and fraying nerves in the seaside region.

Regional emergency officials said Friday that workers had fully restored power supplies to the area, but warned heavy snowfalls would continue.

Sochi is competing against Salzburg, Austria, and Pyeongchang, South Korea, for the right to hold the 2014 Games and the outage came ahead of a visit by the International Olympic Committee evaluation commission later this month.

President Vladimir Putin voiced hope that the outage would not affect Sochi's bid.

"That must have no impact on our plans for hosting the Olympics," Putin said at a news conference Thursday. "I don't have any doubt that if the International Olympic Committee favors Sochi, we will build all necessary facilities on schedule."

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref said a federal development program for Sochi included funds to ensure stable energy supplies regardless of the weather.

Sochi's bid for the Olympics came under criticism Friday from leading environmental groups, which charged that it would destroy the habitat of such species as brown bears and red deer.

Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund spoke after the state environmental watchdog had invited them for talks to try to defuse a dispute that is casting a cloud over the bid.

Both green groups say they will urge the IOC to rule out Sochi unless the bid is changed to lessen its environmental impact. "They have to change the bid as it stands. It is ... harmful to the environment," said Igor Chestin, WWF director in Russia.

Oleg Mitvol, deputy head of the Natural Resources Ministry's environmental agency, said changes to the bid would be considered. He made no specific commitments. "Our country very much needs the Olympics but at the same time it's necessary to ensure the environment in the area where they are held does not deteriorate and maybe even is improved in some respects," he told reporters.

Russia has not staged an Olympics since the Soviet Union hosted the 1980 Summer Games.

Until late last year the forests and mountains around the proposed Olympic site were classified as national park, forbidding development.

But a new Forest Code switched the area to the control of the Economic Development and Trade Ministry from the Natural Resources Ministry and allowed development in the area.

Green campaigners said the momentum behind the law change came not from the Olympic bid, but businessmen who wanted access to lucrative land for development in an area that is home to brown bears, red deer and chamois.

The IOC will announce in July which city will host the Winter Olympics.

(AP, Reuters)