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February 13, 2014

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Risk to power cables from floating lanterns

Floating sky lanterns can affect local high voltage electric wires that can cause widespread blackout in downtown, the State Grid Shanghai Municipal Electric Power Company warned yesterday.

The lanterns, known in Chinese as Kongming, are made of paper and floats in the air after a candle is lit inside similar to a hot air balloon.

Company officials said they found at least three small lit lanterns flying close to major local power facilities.

Friday is the Lantern Festival when the Chinese traditionally set off the flying lanterns to pray for good luck.

“After being released, the burning lanterns can fly thousands of meters away and could drop or twine around the cables and cause severe accidents,” a power company official said.

A green lantern was found burning on the ground on Monday very close to the 220 kilovolt substation in Liantang Town in Qingpu District. Another huge lantern was found flying near the Xinghua substation in Minhang District.

Patrolling officers cleared them away to avoid any potential dangers, the official said.

While urging local residents to avoid setting off the lanterns during the festival, the official said company officers will patrol the facilities during the festival.

The city has no laws to ban the sky lanterns but during the World Expo 2010, it banned the lanterns temporarily along with light aircraft, hot balloons and parachutes. The lanterns are available for 3 yuan on

The airport authority has also prohibited lighting lanterns near the city’s Pudong and Hongqiao international airports. China’s civil aviation regulator has stipulated that group lantern flying activities should be reported beforehand to avoid posing risks to the aircraft.

The lanterns can hit aircraft during takeoff and landing when they fly over 1,000 meters in the sky, an official with the local air traffic controller said.

The burning lantern can be sucked in by aircraft engines with deadly consequences, he said.

“Worse, the lanterns cannot be detected on the radar but can be seen by the pilots and air traffic controllers,” he said.

In 2009, a China Southern Airlines flight from Shantou in southeast Guangdong to Shanghai was forced to alter its flying route after a sky lantern was found floating over the airport.



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