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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Pakistan hit by nationwide power outage

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Islamabad - A massive power breakdown in Pakistan on Monday affected most of the country's more than 220 million people, including in the mega cities of Karachi and Lahore.


Pakistan's electricity distribution system is a complex and delicate web, and a problem in one section of the grid can lead to cascading breakdowns across the country. The hours-long outage, the second in the past two years, was caused by a fault in the national grid at around 7:30 am (0230 GMT).


"According to initial reports, the system frequency dropped at the national grid in the morning which led to a massive breakdown," the ministry of energy tweeted. Repair work was underway, with limited power restored in parts of the capital and the northwestern city of Peshawar.


The port city of Karachi, with a population of more than 15 million, and Lahore, with a population of more than 10 million, remained without power.


A similar breakdown in January 2021 plunged the entire country into darkness after a fault occurred in southern Pakistan tripping the transmission system of the country.


Pakistan has long been hit by energy shortages because of a combination of factors including a poor economy, mismanagement, and a lack of storage facilities. Hospitals are mostly backed up with generators while schools use gas to heat their classrooms.


Load shedding this winter has impacted domestic households and industries including textile manufacturing, one of the largest industries in Pakistan, with some plants temporarily closed.


Tens of millions of people in Pakistan were left without electricity on Monday, the power ministry said, reporting a second "major breakdown" of the national grid during the last three months.


Factories, hospitals, and schools across the country were without power for hours after a voltage fluctuation in the grid occurred between the cities of Jamshoro and Dadu in southern Sindh province, power minister Khurrum Dastagir said.


"There was a fluctuation in voltage and the systems were shut down one by one. This is not a major crisis," Dastagir told Geo TV news channel.


The sorry state of Pakistan's power sector is emblematic of an economy that has lurched from one International Monetary Fund bail-out to the next, with electricity outages occurring frequently due lack funds to upgrade aging infrastructure.


When the grid broke down in October it took several hours before power was restored.


In Peshawar, a city of more than 2.3 million people, some residents said they were unable to get drinking water because the pumps were powered by electricity.


Mohammad Asim, a spokesman for the city's Lady Reading Hospital, the largest in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said backup generators were used to provide uninterrupted electricity for the emergency ward, intensive care units, and laboratories.


The power ministry issued a statement saying that work was ongoing to revive the system, and the minister said that electricity had been restored in some parts of the country.


Pakistan has enough power installed capacity to meet the demand, especially in winter, when it mostly has a surplus.


But the country lacks resources to run its oil and gas-powered plants and the sector is so heavily in debt that it cannot afford to invest in infrastructure and power lines.


"Generators are too far from the load centers and transmission lines are too long and insufficient," a top power official who did not want to be quoted because he was not authorized to speak to the media, told Reuters.


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