ISLAMABAD, Jan 23 (Reuters) – Pakistan’s national grid suffered a major breakdown on Monday, the power ministry said, leaving millions of people without electricity for the second time in three months and highlighting the infrastructural weakness of this heavily indebted nation.
Energy Minister Khurrum Dastagir told Reuters the outage was caused by a large voltage surge in the south of the grid, which affected the entire network.Supplies were being partially restored from north to the south, he added, nearly six hours after factories, hospitals and schools reported outages. The grid should be fully functioning by 10 pm (1700 GMT), Dastagir said, adding: “We are trying our utmost to achieve restoration before that.”
It also took hours to restore power after the last major outage, which occurred in October. A senior ministry official blamed this outage, and the frequent blackouts that Pakistan’s 220 million people suffer, on its ageing grid.
“There’s an underlying weakness in the system,” said the official, who declined to be named as they were not authorised to speak to the media. “Generators are too far from the load centres and transmission lines are too long and insufficient.”
Like much of the national infrastructure, Pakistan’s grid desperately needs an upgrade that the government, which has lurched from one International Monetary Fund bail-out to the next, says it can ill afford.