() — A nationwide power outage in Pakistan left nearly 220 million people without electricity on Monday, threatening to wreak havoc in the South Asian nation already facing fuel shortages in the winter months.
The country’s energy ministry said in a statement that the country’s National Interconnected System stopped working at 7:34 a.m. local time, “causing a widespread failure in the electrical system,” according to initial reports.
“System maintenance work is progressing rapidly,” the statement added.
A “limited number of networks” in the capital Islamabad and the city of Peshawar have been restored, the ministry said.
It is unclear how long the blackout will last and efforts are underway to restore power in various parts of the country.
In the city of Quetta, in the southwestern province of Balochistan, the blackout affected all aspects of daily life, including hospitals, markets and homes.
“Due to the non-availability of generators, services are affected at health centers in the suburbs of Quetta city,” Balochistan health department director Dr. Imran Zarkoon told .
Zaheer, who owns a clothing store in Quetta, said they have no backup and have been waiting for hours for power to be restored.
“The entire Jinnah street market is practically closed, as without electricity customers do not come to the shops,” he said.
The blackout comes as the country’s fragile economy continues to struggle with multiple challenges, including a severe energy crisis.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered all federal departments to cut their energy consumption by 30%, while his government ordered all markets to close at 8:30 p.m. and restaurants at 10. :00 p.m.
The decision to reduce energy use was made when Pakistan announced that its foreign exchange reserves had been reduced to alarmingly low levels. In December, the country’s total liquid foreign exchange reserves stood at $11.7 billion, which is half the amount it had at the beginning of last year, according to the central bank.
Monday’s power outage is Pakistan’s most widespread power outage since 2021, when the nation was plunged into darkness for hours after a “sudden drop in the frequency of the power transmission system.”