Brazzaville - Thieves have stolen almost 800 metres of high-tension electric cable from Congo's biggest hydroelectric dam, threatening the start-up of the project, its coordinator said on Tuesday.

The cable was suspended from pylons each 24 metres, between Tselampo and Mont Banier, in the north-west suburbs of Brazzaville, when it was stolen before the weekend, Leon Armand Ibovi, who manages the Imboulou dam project, told AFP after a visit to the site.

The theft "could delay the arrival in Brazzaville of electricity generated by the dam," Ibovi added.

"We're going to order more cables to avoid affecting the northern part of the country."

"The way in which the thieves went about the job shows that they were professionals," he said, adding that a police hunt for the robbers was under way.

At a global cost of $280-million (about R2-billion), 85 percent of which was financed by China, the Imboulou has been under construction since 2003 on the Lefini river, more than 200 kilometres north of Brazzaville.

The dam is the biggest project of its kind in the Republic of Congo. Once it is onstream, it will have a capacity of 120 megawatts, which will be enough to supply the capital and a large part of the north of the country, according to officials working on the project.

These officials hope that power from the dam will be available in time for the festivities marking the 50th anniversary of the Congo's independence from France, which will be celebrated on August 15. - Sapa-AFP