Millions of people in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan were left without electricity on Tuesday by a massive blackout in Central Asia that paralyzed subways and airports and left skiers stranded on cable cars. The cause of the fault that caused the power outage in these three former Soviet republics where such phenomena are frequent despite investments made in the power grid since their independence three decades ago has not yet been found.
Of course, everyone has looked sideways at Putin, but the Russian leader has nothing to do with all this – he has enough to do with the mess he has got himself into with Ukraine – but it is simply a problem of insufficient and poorly maintained conventional power grids.
Much of Almaty, the economic capital of Kazakhstan, was without electricity, as were the capitals of Uzbekistan, Tashkent, and Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek. According to the authorities, the outages affect wide swathes of territory in these three countries. Uzbekistan’s energy ministry said in a statement released on Telegram that the blackout was due to an accident in Kazakhstan’s grid.
“As a result of a major accident in the energy networks of the Republic of Kazakhstan, there was a blackout in the cities of Almaty, Shymkent, Taras, (in the region of) Turkestan and adjacent areas,” the statement said. “The Uzbek power grid, which is connected to the Unified Power Grid, was damaged by an accident that triggered sudden voltage and frequency changes on 530 lines from Kazakhstan,” it added.
Kegoc, the Kazakh electricity company, reported an “electrical overload”, but also offered no further precision on the breakdown. Central Asia’s power grid has been affected by a major summer drought that has reduced hydropower generation in Kyrgyzstan, a major regional producer. On the other hand, the boom in cryptocurrency mining in this region, particularly in Kazakhstan following China’s ban on this activity, has increased demand and causes supply tensions.
Almaty airport continued to operate normally, but Tashkent airport halted flight takeoffs due to the outage. Other regional airports were also affected. In Bishkek, “the airport is operating but not at full capacity,” its managers said in a statement quoted by local media. According to these reports, the airport resorted to an emergency power supply and is allowing aircraft to land, but has suspended check-in for some outbound flights.
Still in the Kyrgyz capital, media reports indicate that the breakdown disrupted the operation of pumping stations, which is affecting water distribution. And in Tashkent, the subway was at a standstill and the flow of tap water was scarce. In addition, Russian agencies indicated that in a ski resort near this city some 80 people were stuck in the cable cars and had to be rescued.