A fire at an electricity substation in southern Iraq triggered a nationwide power outage Saturday, the electricity ministry said in a statement, also noting that repairs are under way to return power back to normal within the next few hours amid the searing summer heat.
Electricity is a sensitive issue in Iraq, where 43 million people live with frequent power cuts of up to 10 hours a day, worsened by temperatures of up to 50 degrees in summer.
“The power grid experienced a total shutdown on Saturday at 12:40 pm due to a fire that affected a transmission substation in Basra province,” the Ministry said.
Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Moussa told AFP that the outage affected the mains supply to “all of Iraq.”
Later, Electricity Minister Ali Fadel instructed to form an urgent investigative committee to investigate and explain the causes of the fire that occurred at Al-Bakr secondary substation, which led to the separation of the transmission lines of the southern region from the central one, and caused the complete shutdown of the grid.
The Ministry statement had explained that the fire forced “the suspension of transmission lines” between the south and center, and a halt to generation at power plants.
“Speedy repairs are under way… to gradually restart the power plants and transmission lines,” it said, adding that it was hoped the grid would be “back to normal within the next few hours.”
The frequent power outages in Iraq are mainly due to infrastructure shortages following decades of conflict, corruption and mismanagement in the country.
Although Iraq is an oil-rich country, its power plants rely heavily on imported gas from Iran that is repeatedly cut off, making the frequent blackouts worse.
Many households subscribe to neighborhood generators to provide back-up power.
Peak summer demand reaches more than 32,000 megawatts (MW) a day. This year, for the first time, Iraq generated 26,000 MW per day, according to ministry figures.
The Iraqi News Agency (INA) said that the electricity transmission line linking Salah al-Din Governorate and Haditha, was subject to an act of sabotage, putting it out of service. The agency gave no other details about the nature of the sabotage act or those standing behind it.