A nationwide blackout in Pakistan left nearly 220 million people without power on Monday, threatening to wreak havoc in the South Asian nation already struggling with fuel shortages through the winter months.
The country’s energy ministry said in a statement that the country’s national grid went down at 7:34 a.m. local time, “causing widespread power system outage,” 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 outage will last and efforts are underway to restore power to various parts of the country.
In the city of Quetta in Pakistan’s northern Balochistan province, the blackout affected all aspects of daily life, including hospitals, markets and households.
“Due to the unavailability of generators, services are affected in health centers in the suburbs of Quetta city,” Baluchistan Health Department Director Dr Imran Zarkoon told CNN.
Zaheer, the owner of a clothing ship in Quetta, said they had no backup and had been waiting for the power to be restored for hours.
“The entire Jinnah Road market is basically closed, because without electricity, customers don’t go to shops,” he said.
The outage 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 p.m.
The decision to cut energy consumption came as Pakistan announced that its foreign exchange reserves had reached alarming levels. As of December, the country’s total liquid foreign exchange reserves stood at $11.7 billion, half the amount it held at the start of last year, according to the central bank.
Monday’s power outage is Pakistan’s most widespread blackout since 2021, when the country plunged into darkness for hours after a “sudden drop in frequency in the electricity transmission system”.