Power cuts in -30°C spark anger in Kazakhstan

5. Kazakhstan
Workers repair pipes of the heating system in Ekibastuz, Kazakhstan, in this undated photo. (Photo: Kazakhstan Government/AFP)
ALMATY — The plight of a city in Kazakhstan left without heating for over a week in temperatures that dropped to -30°C has sparked anger and highlighted the deplorable state of the country's Soviet-era infrastructure.اضافة اعلان

This month the northeastern city of Ekibastuz, with a population of around 150,000 people, descended into an icy hell, highlighting the dire consequences of power disruptions in winter, as European countries struggle with shortages due to the conflict in on Ukraine.

Images broadcast in Kazakhstan in recent days showed long icicles forming inside apartments, while residents burnt anything they could find to keep warm.

Teams had to work day and night to repair water pipes that had burst due to the cold.

On November 28, authorities declared a state of emergency in Ekibastuz after a malfunction at a thermal power plant deprived several districts of electricity and heating.

The state of emergency was lifted on Thursday and the situation has gradually improved, but the problem has sparked outrage across the country.

Run-down infrastructure
President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who saw deadly protests break out over fuel price hikes in January last year, fired the local governor and dispatched senior officials to the scene.

The city's plight has sparked an outpouring of support, with residents of Kazakhstan collecting donations and sending heaters and blankets to Ekibastuz.

Funds were even collected in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, which itself suffers from power outages.

The Ekibastuz ordeal is just the latest in a long list of accidents involving thermal infrastructure in the vast Central Asian country.

Kazakhstan's energy system, inherited from the Soviet Union, is still run-down despite investments.

"As they say here, the first time it's an accident, the second time it's a coincidence, but the third time it's a rule," energy expert Zhakyp Khairushev told AFP.

According to government data, heating plants were on average built more than 60 years ago under Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

Khairushev said that more than 1,000 emergency shutdowns had occurred at thermal power plants since the start of the year.

To meet the high demand, power stations need to operate at full capacity, which increases the risk of accidents.

Khairushev said the recent expansion of the power-hungry crypto mining industry was adding to the risks.

Twenty-two of Kazakhstan's 37 thermal power stations are in private hands, and Tokayev has said he is considering the nationalization of a number of assets.

Many have laid the blame for the most recent accident on tycoon Alexander Klebanov, the owner of the Ekibastuz power station.

Klebanov has denied responsibility.

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