A rebel attack on a key transmission line shut off electricity to 80 percent of Pakistan’s population, blacking out the world’s second largest city, Karachi, and the nation’s capital of Islamabad.
Around 140 million people – including 23.5 million in Karachi — lost power during the Sunday terrorist attack.
“The blowing up of two power pylons in Naseerabad … created a backward surge which affected the system,” a spokesman for Pakistan’s ministry of water and power told Sky News. “It was an act of sabotage.”
Said Pakistan’s water and power minister, Abid Sher, “The fault in the system was caused by a main transmission line being blown up in Baluchistan.”
The rebels are Islamic fundamentalists associated with the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The simplicity of the attack, along with its amazing success, should cause America and the world to take notice.
Not The First Attack
It was the third attack on the power grid in Baluchistan in the last two weeks, said water and power ministry official Muhammad Younus Dagha.
The rebel attack caused a chain reaction that left the grid down for hours, The Guardian reported. Pakistan’s electric grid is old and the government lacks the money to modernize it, the newspaper said.
“Pakistan’s electricity distribution system is a complex – and delicate – web,” The Guardian stated. “A major fault at one section often leads to chain reactions and breakdowns of power generation and transmission.”
Electricity is not the only form of energy in short supply in Pakistan. The nation is facing a shortage of gasoline and diesel fuel because the Pakistan State Oil company does not have enough money to pay its suppliers.
US Grid Vulnerable, Too
Experts in the US say America’s power grid is vulnerable, too, and that Congress should act to reinforce it before it’s too late.
The Department of Homeland Security reported that there were at least 79 cyberattacks on the US electric grid in 2014, as Off The Grid News reported.
But not all the attacks are cyber-related. In April 2013, an attack on a Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) substation outside of San Jose caused $15 million worth of damage, and the person or persons who attempted it never were caught despite a $250,000 reward offer.
Former Congressman Henry Waxman (D-California) described the incident as “an unprecedented and sophisticated attack on an electric grid substation with military-style weapons.”
“Communications were disrupted,” Waxman said. “The attack inflicted substantial damage. It took weeks to replace the damaged parts. Under slightly different conditions, there could have been serious power outages or worse.”
The US electric grid is becoming increasingly unreliable. A US Department of Energy study found that the number of electric outages in the US has increased by 285 percent since 1984, when record keeping began. And the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found that sabotaging just nine key substations could cause a national blackout. If the American grid is down for just a week, it is estimated millions would die.
When the American Society of Civil Engineers graded the US electrical system for safety and stability in 2013 it gave it a D+.
“America relies on an aging electrical grid and pipeline distribution systems, some of which originated in the 1880s,” the report noted.
Americans should pay close attention to what’s happening in Pakistan. Unless American households and businesses take steps to provide backup power, they, too, could find themselves in the dark.
Do you believe America’s power grid is vulnerable to a national blackout? Share your thoughts in the section below: