Blistering heatwave: Inquiry into blackouts begins as Nawaz prepares to fly into Karachi

Federal govt team meets K-Electric’s management, seeks records since privatisation

Our Correspondents June 27, 2015


Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif prepares to fly into the metropolitan city to discuss how a blistering heatwave caused hundreds of deaths in Sindh as 15 more people died of heat exhaustion, taking the death toll in the  weeklong tragedy to 1,046.

The Sindh government, which has been under scathing criticism over the heatwave deaths,  alleges that the heatwave was exasperated by the chronic power crisis in the country and that the federal government has reigned on its election promise of putting out power outages within six months.

Premier Nawaz Sharif is expected to visit Karachi either on Monday or Tuesday to discuss the heatwave  aftermath and other issues, his office confirmed on Saturday.

Read: Death toll from killer Karachi heatwave surpasses 1,000

According to his itinerary, the prime minister would visit heatstroke victims at different hospitals of the city and also meet the relevant authorities for a briefing on the power situation.

He is also expected to chair a meeting on the law and order situation in the city and issue directives to the law enforcement agencies, particularly after the damning BBC report on the MQM in which the political party has been accused of receiving funds and training from India.

Inquiry initiated

The federal government, on the other hand, has formally initiated an inquiry into K-Electric’s alleged deliberate move to curtail power production during the heatwave in Karachi.

Federal Secretary for Water and Power Younus Dagha and National Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) chief Tariq Sadozai, along with a team of experts, met K-Electric’s management, including its Chief Executive Officer Tayyab Tareen, on Saturday and asked them for the power utility’s records since privatisation.

Read: Karachi woes: Two grid stations catch fire, swathes of city without power

The records pertain to the effort made since K-Electric’s privatisation to improve the distribution network as well as production capacity. During the meeting the water and power secretary told the K-Electric officials that although it was a private company the federal government could not leave Karachiites at its mercy. The K-Electric officials, however, claimed that the company was producing electricity to its full capacity.

The K-Electric management told the government team that the company has invested over $1billion which was endorsed by the State Bank of Pakistan. The company is planning to invest another $2billion over the next three to four years in generation and transmission system which would enable the company to become net exporter of electricity by 2020.

According to officials, the Nepra chairman said they have checked generation data and found K-Electric was running all its power plants at maximum capacity and that the news in media about underutilisation was incorrect.

The water and power secretary said the government was supplying 600MW power to K-Electric therefore there should be no excess load-shedding in the metropolis.

Death toll climbs

Karachiites had a brief respite from soaring temperatures, though the death toll from the killer heatwave continued to rise, with 15 more fatalities reported on Saturday.

Dr Seemin Jamali, the head of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre’s emergency section, said the situation has gradually improved. “I urge the people to plant and nurture more trees in the city to deal with any subsequent heatwave.”

Read: Privatisation of K-Electric will not be reversed: PM Nawaz

Salma Kausar, senior director at the Medical & Health Services of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), said no deaths had occurred at any of the KMC-run health facilities on Saturday. Saqib Zeeshan, communications manager at the Indus Hospital, also reported that there had been no fatalities at the health facility since Thursday.

However, 200 more heatwave victims were admitted in different hospitals, while four patients breathed their last at the Civil Hospital Karachi. Forty-three patients were also admitted at the Aga Khan University Hospital a day earlier.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 28th, 2015.

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