Tens of millions without power in Pakistan as national grid fails

Pakistan’s national grid suffered a major breakdown, leaving millions of people without electricity for the second time in three months and highlighting the infrastructural weakness of the heavily indebted nation.

The energy minister, Khurram Dastgir, said the outage on Monday 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 10pm (1700 GMT), Dastgir said, adding: “We are trying our utmost to achieve restoration before that.”

It took hours to restore power after the last major outage, 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 needs an upgrade that the government says it can ill afford.

Pakistan has enough installed power capacity to meet demand, but it 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.

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