February 5, 2023

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In Kazakhstan, a city of 150,000 people was without electricity for a week in temperatures of -30°C.

In Kazakhstan, the ordeal of a city left unheated for more than a week in temperatures of -30 degrees Celsius sparked a wave of anger and highlighted the poor state of the Soviet-era energy infrastructure.

Officials on Thursday announced the end of the state of emergency imposed on November 28, the day after a fault at a thermal power plant knocked out power and heat in several districts.

But Ekibastouz, a city of about 150,000 people in the north of the Central Asian country, descended into inferno, illustrating the potential consequences of massive power outages in the middle of winter, at a time when many European countries fear energy shortages. War in Ukraine.

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Stalactites in apartments

Images broadcast by Kazakh media showed stalactites forming in apartments, while cold residents burned what they found on the street to warm themselves in the freezing temperatures. Crews of workers worked day and night to repair pipes that had burst in the frost, heating jerrycans with blowtorches to prevent their contents from freezing.

If the situation is gradually improving, the raid on Ekibastos, a large labor camp during the Stalinist terror in which the famous writer and Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn was imprisoned, sparked national outrage.

Famous singer Dimach Koudaïbergen, 3.8 million subscribers On InstagramThose responsible for this calamity have made a request “Enjoy prison without warming up the punishment” This requires payment “Tears of Mothers Lying in the Street”.

Undated photo of a manual repairing frozen water pipes after a prolonged power outage in the city of Ekibastus, courtesy of Kazakh authorities.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who was ousted by deadly riots nearly a year ago, has faced outrage on social media, sacking the local governor and sending several senior officials to the scene. Heaters and blankets were sent from other parts of Kazakhstan. Even in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, where the energy situation is not so enviable, funds have been raised in support.

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The episode adds to an already long list of accidents involving thermal infrastructure in Kazakhstan, a country five times the size of France. “The first time is a coincidence, the second, a coincidence, and the third, fate”An electrical engineer and business manager told Agence France-Presse Jakyp Khaïrouchev.

Scheme for nationalization of power plants

Despite the investments received from the Soviet Union, the energy system remains in a state of disrepair. According to the government, the average age of thermal power plants is sixty-one years. Mr. According to Kairushev, “More than 1,000 thermal power plant emergency shutdowns occurred in 2022, i.e. nearly 75,000 hours”. The explosion in cryptocurrency mining in Kazakhstan in recent years, along with power-intensive computers, has increased the strain on energy infrastructure, the expert explains.

President Togayev lamented that Kazakhstan is rich in hydrocarbons “One of the most dynamic countries in the world” Especially to import electricity from Russia. Forced to react, he says he is now considering nationalizing some assets, while twenty-two of the thirty-seven thermal power plants are privately owned.

As for the Ekibastouz plant, the government has passed on its owner, oligarch Alexander Klebanov, the fifteenth richest man in Kazakhstan. Forbes. But he replied that he had “Already warned the government about the unprofitability of the plant” And called “Raising rates is impossible”.

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The world with AFP