Complete power breakdown badly affects life in Karachi

Our Correspondent
Tuesday, Jan 24, 2023

The routine life of residents of Karachi was greatly disturbed throughout Monday after a countrywide power breakdown triggered by a ‘frequency variation’ in the national grid early morning left large parts of the country, including Karachi, without power.

As power supply to various areas could not be restored till late Monday night, even those who had generators or UPS could not use electricity at night as their fuel for generators or charge for UPS had run out.

Federal Power Minister Khurram Dastgir said power generation units were temporarily shut down in winter at night as an economic measure to save fuel costs. He explained that when the systems were turned on at 7:30am on Monday morning, one by one frequency variations was reported in the national grid in the southern part of the country between Jamshoro and Dadu.

"There was a fluctuation in voltage and power generating units were shut down one by one due to cascading impact. This is not a major crisis,” said the federal minister. He assured that the power would be restored by 10pm, however, till the filing of this story at 11pm, power had not been restored in the port city.

Mobile signal issues

The people of Karachi woke to a complete power breakdown in the morning which caused problems for schoolchildren and employed persons in getting ready. Adding to the woes, many citizens by the afternoon had been complaining of not getting mobile signals.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Corporation Limited (PTCL) in a tweet said that due to the ongoing power breakdown in the country, their customers may face degradation in the PTCL services. “Once the power is restored, you will be able to enjoy uninterrupted PTCL services again,” the tweet read.

Water supply halted

The power cut also resulted in a complete halt to water supply in various areas of the city. The Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) chief executive officer (CEO) in a press statement said that due to massive power breakdown, all the pumping stations of the KWSB had come to a complete halt. The 72-inch-diameter waterline at the Dhabeji pumping station was also affected due to the power breakdown.

The KWSB CEO said that the repair work of the 72-inch water line could take at least 48 hours.

“Due to the breakdown, there is a temporary halt in the water supply to the city,” he said, adding that the K-Electric (KE) had assured the water board that the power supply to the pumping stations would be restored on an emergency basis. The KWSB requested the citizens not to waste water as it may take time to restore water supply to the city.

Troubled citizens

Residents of Karachi lamented how it was already difficult for them to manage daily routine without interrupted supply of gas in winter and then they had to suffer such a prolonged power cut. They said it felt as if dark ages had returned in the 21st century.

“We bought electric geyser and stove because of the gas crisis,” said a resident of North Nazimabad, Fasahat Fatima. “Now there is no power. How do we cook? We don’t even have hot water in washrooms.”

Fatima lamented how elderlies in her home could not use cold water and they could not even heat water on stove because there was neither gas nor power. A resident of Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Ayesha, does work from home online, but due to the power outage accompanied with poor mobile signals, she had a tough time working on Monday.

“We live in an era where we don’t have power, mobile signals, gas – nothing at all,” she said, adding that after the gas crisis in winter, such power outages had made their lives miserable.

Deserted markets

Markets of the city also painted a deserted look on Monday. All Karachi Trader Alliance President Ateeq Mir told The News that if Karachi did business of Rs40 million a day, hardly a Rs10million business happened on Monday due to the power outage.

He explained factories were also shut, due to which retailers could not do any business. With such power outages, he said, traders faced immense problems.

A cloth merchant at the Zainab Market, Muhammad Shoaib, shared how there was almost no customer on Monday. “Generally our business starts after sunset,” he said, adding that there was the power outage and everyone chose to head home. “Our shops were dark as we mostly cannot afford generators.”

KE statement

In a press statement, the KE said that as per reports, a fault in the national grid caused a sudden drop in the system frequency approximately at 7:34am. This caused a cascading outage widespread across the country, affecting power supply to multiple cities, including Karachi.

The power utility said its system’s protective mechanisms were able to prevent any damage to its infrastructure. The statement said KE teams were directly supervising the restoration efforts across Karachi and they were also in contact with relevant authorities to reestablish the link between Karachi and the national grid to quicken the restoration of power supply to the city.

The KE said it was proceeding at a cautious pace, prioritising the stability of the network frequency. Strategic installations such as the airport, seaport and hospitals were being restored first.

The statement that was issued at around 10pm read that it was expected that power supply to a majority of residential and commercial areas of the city would be restored over next three to four hours. It added that the complete restoration to the city, particularly industrial consumers, was dependent on the provision of reliable supply from the national grid, which may take a few more hours.