Islamabad: A major breakdown in the country’s electricity transmission system early on Wednesday led to blackouts in major parts of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), as well as the federal capital Islamabad.
The massive power failure, which left the national grid with a 4,000 Megawatt (MW) shortfall, occurred when the Tarbela, Mangla and Ghazi Barotha power plants tripped, apparently due to faults in the main transmission line, according to the Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO) officials.
The tripping of main Tarbela transmission line also led to all four Chashma nuclear power plants to trip as well, officials said.
The power disruption also caused a blackout in the National Assembly, Punjab Assembly, as well as Supreme Court, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) and several other government offices, impeding routine proceedings.
The prolonged outage caused havoc at different hospitals in Islamabad and Lahore where surgeries for many patients were halted.
Doctors and patients at Benazir Bhutto Hospital in Rawalpindi had to face hardships due to the power failure.
“The backup generators have even stopped working as there is no electricity for the last seven hours,” said a medical officer Saima Hameed.
Although Pakistanis endure frequent power outages almost daily, the scale and duration of the breakdown left many citizens puzzled.
“There’s no TV, no internet, no backup electricity. We don’t know what’s going and when the power would be restored,” said Ihsan Ali, a shop owner in Islamabad.
In addition to disruptions at schools, government offices and businesses, traffic lights also stopped causing chaos on the roads of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
The breakdown also affected operations at the new Islamabad International Airport, where the offices of airlines and baggage handling remained halted for hours leading to long queues and difficulties for the travellers.
The sudden blackout affected various cities of Punjab including Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan, Bahawalpur as well as twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. In KP, the outage affected Peshawar, Swat, Lakki Marwat and other cities.
The outage occurred due to a technical fault at the National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC) on Wednesday morning.
“The breakdown triggered at the Guddu-Muzaffargarh power line, which created faults at the Tarbela and Guddu power stations” according to a Power Division spokesperson.
Following the technical fault at Tarbela, the power generation had electricity plunged to 12,000MW whereas the present energy demand of the country is around 20,000MW.
According to an official of Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), “Work has started on restoring power supply this afternoon, however, it will take some time. It could take hours to restore.”
The outage continued for several hours because the system tripped again after restoration of 60 to 70 per cent areas, officials said.
Minister for Power Awais Leghari said electricity was being restored to the system after certain power plants tripped in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Speaking in the National Assembly on Wednesday, the minister said the situation had been normalised in the federal capital.
However, it would take two to three hours to fully restore the power system. He added that a probe would be launched to establish the causes of the breakdown.
Water and Power Development Authority Lahore official Kausar Noor Solangi told the state-owned news service Radio Pakistan that electricity has been restored to parts of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Muzzafargarh, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Peshawar and Mardan.
The PAEC spokesman was quoted by Radio Pakistan as saying that the Chashma plants would be re-connected to the national grid once fault in main transmission line is rectified. The restoration is taking time as nuclear power plants take several hours to resume operation once they trip, he said.
According to the latest reports, electricity is said to have been fully been reinstated in Multan and 80 per cent of Islamabad as Ghazi Barotha and Mangla issue has been resolved.