Pakistan hit by massive power outage

A gigantic power outage affected a large part of Pakistan on Monday morning, including the largest cities of Lahore and Karachi, according to authorities.

Electricity cuts are frequent in Pakistan, which has faced a chronic energy crisis for years and whose distribution system is complex and dilapidated.

The outage, which lasted several hours, was due to a malfunction that occurred at 07:30 local time (02:30 GMT). This is the second incident of this magnitude in just two years in this country of more than 220 million inhabitants.

“According to initial information, the system frequency on the national grid dropped this morning (Monday), resulting in a huge outage,” the Department of Energy said on Twitter.

Power was partially restored in the morning in the capital Islamabad and in Peshawar (northwest).

But the great economic hub of Karachi, with its 15 million inhabitants, and the second largest agglomeration, Lahore (10 million), were still without electricity at the end of the morning.

A trader uses a flashlight to light up his shop on January 23, 2023 in Rawalpindi, during a massive power outage in Pakistan (AFP – Aamir QURESHI)

The outage did not have an immediate impact on the health system, most hospitals being equipped with emergency generators. Schools, on the other hand, most often use gas heating to warm classrooms.

A similar outage in January 2021 plunged most of the country into darkness for several hours, after a technical malfunction in the south of the country set off a chain reaction at several power stations.

Power cuts are a recurring problem in Pakistan. But the situation has further deteriorated in recent months, its dramatic financial situation further aggravating its energy supply difficulties.

Households have been affected, but so has industry, for example in the textile sector, which accounts for around 60% of Pakistani exports.

In May 2018, another major blackout affected the country, with electricity remaining partially cut off for more than nine hours.

High voltage lines, January 23, 2023 in Rawalpindi, during a gigantic power outage in Pakistan (AFP - Aamir QURESHI)
High voltage lines, January 23, 2023 in Rawalpindi, during a gigantic power outage in Pakistan (AFP – Aamir QURESHI)

In 2015, 80% of the country, including major cities, was plunged into darkness by a power outage caused, according to the government, by an attack by Baloch separatists against a high voltage line in a remote district of the province of Balochistan (southwest).

This failure, one of the most serious in Pakistan’s history, even affected one of the international airports.

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