Nationwide power blackout plunges Pakistan into darkness


Power is gradually being restored to major cities across Pakistan after it was hit by a massive electricity blackout.

The electricity distribution system in the nation of more than 210 million people is a complex – and delicate – web, and a problem in one section of the grid can lead to cascading breakdowns countrywide.

The latest blackout was caused by “an engineering fault” in southern Pakistan at 11.41pm local time (1841 GMT) on Saturday, which tripped the system and caused power plants to shut down, the power minister, Omar Ayub Khan, told a press conference in Islamabad.

“Our experts are trying to determine the exact location of the fault, which we have not been able to find out.”

Khan said that would take “another few hours as the area is still covered in dense fog”, and that power supply had been partially restored in most areas of Punjab, the most populous province, as well as the economic hub Karachi in the south.

The blackout had plunged all of Pakistan’s major cities into darkness, including the capital Islamabad, Karachi and the second-largest city, Lahore.

There were no immediate reports of disruption at hospitals, which can often rely on backup generators.

A water and power ministry spokesman said electricity had been restored to some parts of the country but many areas in Lahore and Karachi were still waiting.

NetBlocks, which monitors internet outages, said online connectivity in the country collapsed as a result of the blackout. Connectivity was at “62% of ordinary levels”, it tweeted.

This was Pakistan’s second major power breakdown in less than three years. In May 2018, power supply was partially disrupted for more than nine hours.

In 2015, an apparent rebel attack on a key power line plunged about 80% of Pakistan into darkness.

That blackout, one of the worst in Pakistan’s history, caused electricity to be cut in major cities nationwide, including Islamabad, and affected one of the country’s international airports.