Pakistan begins power restoration after second major grid outage in months

Islamabad, Jan. 23 (Reuters) – Pakistan’s government began restoring power to millions of people on Monday after a grid breakdown triggered the worst power outage in months and lifted the heavily indebted country’s fragile infrastructure.

An investigation into the outage began at 7:00 a.m. local time (0200 GMT) and lasted more than 12 hours in the peak winter season.

Homes remained without power in the dark as evening approached, and Energy Minister Khurram Dastgir wrote on Twitter that authorities had begun restoring power across the country.

Dastgir told reporters earlier: “We have faced some hurdles, but we will overcome these hurdles and regain power.”

The outage, which the minister attributed to voltage surges, is the second major grid failure in three months and adds to the blackouts that Pakistan’s nearly 220 million people suffer on an almost daily basis.

Dastgir said power had begun to return to parts of the capital Islamabad and the southwestern province of Balochistan.

A spokesperson for K-Electric Ltd said that Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and economic hub, will have power restored in the next 3 to 4 hours. (CALL.PSX)South City’s electricity supplier, said.

Analysts and officials blame power problems on an aging electricity network that, like much of the national infrastructure, is in dire need of an upgrade that the government says it cannot afford.

The International Monetary Fund has bailed out Pakistan five times in the last two decades. However, its latest bailout has been hit by disagreements with the government over a program review due to be completed in November.

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Pakistan has enough installed power to meet demand, but lacks the resources to run its oil and gas-fired plants. The sector is too indebted to invest in infrastructure and power lines. China has invested in its power sector as part of a $60 billion infrastructure plan feeding Beijing’s “Belt and Road” initiative.

“We have added capacity, but we have been doing so without improving transmission infrastructure,” said Fahad Rauf, head of research at Karachi-based brokerage Ismail Iqbal Industries.

The ban came on a wintry day where temperatures were forecast to drop to 4 degrees Celsius (39 °F) in Islamabad and 8 degrees Celsius (46 °F) in Karachi.

As there is no electricity at the pumps, many people do not have water.

Earlier, Dastgir told Reuters that the grid should be fully operational by 10:00 pm (1700 GMT).

Internet and mobile phone services were disrupted. Several companies and hospitals said they had switched to back-up generators, but disruptions continued across the board.

Reporting by Asif Shahzad, Ariba Shahid and Gibran Nayyar Beshimam, additional reporting by Gibran Ahmed in Peshawar and Mubasher Bukhari in Lahore and Charlotte Greenfield in Kabul; By Shilpa Jamkandikar, Miral Fahmi and Shivam Patel; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly, Simon Cameron-Moore and Bernadette Baum

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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