More than half of the southern province of Sindh sank into darkness in the early hours of Friday after a power transformer caught fire in the 500KV Jamshoro grid station of the National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC).
The fault, which developed hours after the first monsoon showers began around 2am, left 13 of the province’s 14 districts which receive their electricity from the Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco) without power for eight to 12 hours.
Similarly, the country’s largest metropolitan city and commercial hub, Karachi, remained without electricity for as much as 14 hours as the transmission line at Hub also developed a fault around 6:30am – an hour-and-a-half after the Jamshoro grid station broke down. Unofficial accounts indicated nearly 80% of Karachi’s populace had to go without electricity in the harrowing humidity.
“Sixty-seven of our grid stations shut down [due to the fault at Jamshoro grid station],” said Hesco spokesperson Sadiq Kubar. “Only four grids in Nawabshah remained functional.”
According to the resident engineer at Jamshoro grid station, Muhammad Amir, the fire broke out after a transformer was struck by lightning. “One of our security guards saw a thunderbolt striking the transformer,” he said.
Grid operators were forced to shut down the remaining seven transformers to prevent further damage, as firefighters struggled for over six hours to put out the fire. The blaze was extinguished by 11am, according to Hesco Chief Executive Muhammad Saleem Jat. It took another two to four hours to restore the electricity supply, he said. However, power complaints continued to pour in from different districts till around 7pm.
In Karachi, the sudden loss of generation due to the breakdown at Jamshoro grid station caused a major gap between supply and demand, the spokesperson for Karachi Electric (KE) said. “Due to the unexpected interruption of about 650MW supply from the national grid, KE’s generation system suddenly overloaded, resulting in a massive breakdown,” he explained.
Due to transmission lines’ sudden tripping, KE’s generation plants and transmission circuits were temporarily rendered ineffective, the spokesperson said. “We almost managed the first stoppage from Jamshoro but the second one [at Hub] affected the overall system.”
Even Karachi’s red-zone experienced the blackout. “There was no electricity since morning in the CM House,” an official confirmed after Friday prayers.
Residents of Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Malir, Saddar, Korangi, Orangi, North Nazimabad, Quaidabad, Gulshan-e-Hadeed, Keamari, Lyari, Baldia Town, Gadap, Gulberg, Jamshed Town, Landhi, New Karachi, Shah Faisal Town, DHA, PIDC, Karachi Cantonment, Mehmoodabad, Dhoraji, SMCHS, PECHS, Javed Bahria, Mauripur and others areas complained that they were without electricity for several hours.
This also caused a water crisis in the city as the major water supply line, the 72-inch diameter pipe from Dhabeji pumping station, burst due to backpressure.
Most of the employees of private and public organisations also complained that ‘unannounced’ load-shedding created a difficult time for them.
KE officials claimed that power was restored across the city before Iftar, but residents from Gulshan-e-Iqbal said electricity was back on around 10:30pm.
“We apologise to citizens for the inconvenience caused, especially taking into account that this happened on the last Friday of Ramazan. We would also like to appeal to people to conserve as much energy as possible to ensure that a more equitable distribution of electricity,” the KE spokesperson said.
Friday’s power breakdown affected industrial and commercial activities badly in Karachi. But since it only hit one shift in industrial areas, the losses did not exceed Rs3 billion. Most of factories used alternative fuel to generate power, according to KCCI Acting President Muffasar Atta Malik.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2014.