A major outage of Pakistan’s national grid left tens of millions of people without electricity on Monday, its power ministry said.
The outage hit schools, hospitals, and factories around the country, which Power minster Khurrum Dastigir said was caused by a voltage fluctuation in the grid between the southern cities of Dadu and Jamshoro.
“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.
Outages were reported in the southern port city of Karachi, the capital Islamabad, the eastern city of Lahore and Peshawar in the north.
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 a lack funds to upgrade aging infrastructure.
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.
Running on emergency power
Mohammad Asim, a spokesman for the city’s Lady Reading Hospital, the largest in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said back-up 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 centres and transmission lines are too long and insufficient,” a top power official who did not want to be quoted because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
- Reuters, with additional editing from Alfie Habershon