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Inquiry underway into nationwide blackout; first since 2007 cyclone

By Agencies in Dhaka | China Daily | Updated: 2014-11-03 07:39

An inquiry was underway on Sunday into Bangladesh's nationwide blackout, which plunged homes, businesses and even the prime minister's office into darkness.

The outage marked the first time the entire country has been without power since November 2007, when Bangladesh was hit by a devastating cyclone.

Power was restored across the country by Sunday morning, a government minister said.

"There is no power shortfall anywhere in the country. The supply is now fully normal across the country," Nasrul Hamid, the junior power minister, told reporters after the outage, which hit just before midday on Saturday.

"We've set up a committee to investigate. The committee has already started work and will submit its findings in three days."

Hamid would not say what exactly caused the blackout, which hit the country around noon after what some power officials described as a "technical glitch" in the transmission line that caused a cascade of failures throughout the national power grid, with power plants and substations shutting down automatically. For a power grid to work, electricity must be supplied constantly at a rate equal to demand.

Inquiry underway into nationwide blackout; first since 2007 cyclone


Ghost town

Dhaka's hospitals and the international airport continued to operate after the blackout on Saturday with emergency generators, but many businesses had to send their employees home.

Mohammad Hasan, a resident of Dhaka's upscale Bashundhara neighborhood, said: "This is terrible. We had some confidence in the government over the last few years that the power sector was improving slowly. But what is this?"

Loud cheers could be heard in Dhaka late on Saturday as the lights came back on in phases, after residents spent hours outdoors or on their roofs.

Dhaka, with a population of 15 million, had resembled a ghost town as dusk descended.

Water supplies were hit as most of the pumps that supply groundwater could not function.

Masud Alberuni, a senior power ministry official, said all cities and towns linked to the national grid had been hit.

He said the grid "tripped" and "all the power-generating stations in the country automatically shut down in a cascading effect".

The country's garment and other industries were largely unaffected because many of the thousands of factories were closed on Saturday.

Electricity supplies in Bangladesh, one of the world's poorest countries with a population of 155 million, are vastly overstretched at the best of times.

Bangladesh, like many developing countries, has an expanding middle-class and increasing industrialization, imposing heavier loads on limited generating capacity.

To boost the supply, Dhaka began importing power from India late last year through a line stretching from India's eastern state of West Bengal to southwestern Bangladesh.

But India also struggles to produce enough power, with a major blackout in 2012 hitting two-thirds of its states.

In Bangladesh, the presidential palace, the prime minister's office, government offices and television stations were among premises hit by the outage.

But many people in poor rural areas, accustomed to regular power cuts lasting many hours, did not know the blackout was nationwide.

Bangladesh is one of the most energy-poor nations, with one of the lowest per capita electricity consumption rates.


Inquiry underway into nationwide blackout; first since 2007 cyclone 

Bangladesh fishmongers light their fish stalls with candles during a power blackout in Dhaka on Saturday, after a transmission line failed, leaving homes, businesses and shops in the country without electricity. Munir Uz Zaman / Agence France-Presse

(China Daily 11/03/2014 page11)

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