Widespread power outages reported in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan

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 A policeman regulates traffic during a power outage in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on 25 January 2022 (EPA)
A policeman regulates traffic during a power outage in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on 25 January 2022 (EPA)

A major power blackout left millions without electricity in three Central Asian countries on Tuesday afternoon.

The capitals of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan were left without power around lunch time after an accident in the power grid shared by the three countries.

The three countries are part of one power grid system that was designed in the Soviet-era. The grids of these countries are linked to the Russian power grid via Kazakhstan, which they can use to cover shortages.

It is still unclear what caused the accident in the grid but authorities in Kazakhstan said that due to a “significant emergency imbalance created by the energy system of Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan), there was a surge in power for the transit of electricity” between grids in Kazakhstan, according to the national electricity provider KEGOS.

Uzbekistan’s energy minister said there was a power outage in the southern Kazakh cities of Almaty, Shymkent, Taras, Turkestan and adjacent regions due to “a major accident in the power grids of the Republic of Kazakhstan”.

“The Uzbek power grid, which is connected to the Unified Power Grid, was damaged as a result of an accident that led to sudden changes in voltage and frequency on 530 lines from Kazakhstan,” the minister said in a statement, according to Eurasia.net. “Because of the fact that the Tashkent thermal power plant and the Syrdarya thermal power plant are linked to the Central Asia unified electric grid, this accident led to the automatic shutdown of both those plants.”

The outage brought flights and subway services to a halt in Uzbek capital Tashkent. The police also issued a traffic safety advisory due to their inability to control traffic lights.

In a statement, the Kyrgyzstan’s energy ministry also said that blackout was “due to an accident in the regional energy grid”. Power outages were seen in Bishkek, and the northern Chuy region, reported news agency Interfax, quoting the Kyrgyzstan government and a local electricity provider.

Power grids in central Asian countries have been burdened recently by a summer drought that affected hydropower capacity in Kyrgyzstan as well as cryptocurrency mining.

In recent years, the co-dependence on power has also led to friction between the three countries.

Additional reporting by agencies

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