"Thousands of buildings at U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan have such poorly installed wiring that American troops face life-threatening risks, a top inspector for the Army says. (...)
"It was horrible -- some of the worst electrical work I've ever seen," said Jim Childs, a master electrician and the top civilian expert in an Army safety survey. Childs told CNN that "with the buildings the way they are, we're playing Russian roulette."
Childs recently returned from Iraq, where he is taking part in a yearlong review aimed at correcting electrical hazards on U.S. bases. He told CNN that thousands of buildings in Iraq and Afghanistan are so badly wired that troops are at serious risk of death or injury.
He said problems are "everywhere" in Iraq, where 18 U.S. troops have died by electrocution since 2003. All deaths occurred in different circumstances and different locations, but many happened on U.S. bases being managed by various military contractors. The Army has has reopened investigations in at least five cases, according to Pentagon sources.
Of the nearly 30,000 buildings the Army's "Task Force Safe" has examined so far, Childs said more than half "failed miserably." And 8,527 had such serious problems that inspectors gave them a "flash" warning, meaning repairs had to be completed in four hours or the facility evacuated.
He said the majority of those buildings were wired by contractor KBR, based in Houston, Texas. KBR has faced extensive criticism from Congress over its performance in the war zone. KBR has defended its performance and argued it was not to blame for any fatalities."
"Defense contractor KBR Inc., which is under criminal investigation in the electrocution deaths of at least two U.S. soldiers in Iraq, has been awarded a $35 million contract by the Pentagon to build an electrical distribution center and other projects there."