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Huge power outage in Pakistan

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Pakistan suffered a huge power cut early on Monday following a breakdown in its national electricity grid, the energy ministry said.

Power was out in all the country’s major cities, including the biggest city Karachi, the capital Islamabad as well as Lahore and Peshawar.

Power minister Khurrum Dastagir said the grid failure followed a “frequency variation” in southern Pakistan.

He insisted this was “not a major crisis” and power would be back soon.

In a statement. the energy ministry said that at about 07:30 local time (02:30 GMT) the grid “experienced a loss of frequency that caused a major breakdown”, adding that “swift work” was taking place to revive the system.

Some grids in the country had already been restored and power would be fully restored in 12 hours, Mr Dastagir told Geo TV.

“In winter, the demand for electricity reduces nationwide, hence, as an economic measure, we temporarily close down our power generation systems at night,” he said.

When they were turned on in the morning, “frequency variation and voltage fluctuation” were observed in southern Pakistan “somewhere between Dadu and Jamshoro” and subsequently “power generating units shut down one by one”, he told the TV channel.

It means that across the country, traffic lights are down, fans have stopped and lights are off.

Many in Pakistan are used to dealing with fluctuating power supplies and load shedding – where electricity to some areas is temporarily reduced in order to prevent the failure of the entire system – is common.

Businesses, industries and homes often have their own generators which kick in when the electricity is cut.

Officials at Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, told the BBC that hardly any department had been affected by the power cut because generators have been used to provide electricity to every department, including the emergency wards and intensive care units.

However, while hospitals and larger industries may have bigger generators, other smaller organisations or private homes will not necessarily have enough power to last for many days.

Earlier this month the government ordered all malls and markets to shut by 20:30 and restaurants by 22:00 under a new energy saving plan.

The cabinet said that this was expected to save the country around 62bn Pakistani rupees ($270m; £220m). Federal departments have been told to reduce their electricity usage by 30%.

Pakistan generates most of its power using imported fossil fuels.

As global energy prices have increased in the last year, further pressure has been put on the country’s finances and its foreign reserves which it needs to pay for energy imports.

(BBC News)

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8 killed and dozens injured after Mumbai billboard collapse

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A least eight people have been killed and about 60 injured after a giant billboard collapsed during a sudden storm in the Indian city of Mumbai, authorities said.

The billboard, measuring 70m by 50m according to the police, fell onto houses and a petrol station in the city’s financial district on Monday.

About 20 to 30 people are still feared to be trapped with a rescue operation under way, emergency services said.

The billboard fell after a rain and dust storm hit the city of Mumbai, ripping up trees and causing travel chaos and power outages.

Footage on local news channels shows the huge billboard swaying in the wind before giving way and crashing into the buildings near a busy road in the city’s eastern suburb of Ghatkopar.

Video posted on social media appears to show the immediate aftermath at the petrol station, with vehicles crushed under the fallen advertisement hoarding.

In photos from the scene, emergency teams can be seen working through the wreckage. dramatic video footage also shows rescue workers pulling out a victim from under the fallen billboard and using power tools to cut the metal.

In a statement posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said “speedy winds” caused the collapse and that several agencies including police, fire and national disaster response teams were involved in the rescue operation.

Devendra Fadnavis, the deputy chief minister of Maharashtra state, said a “high-level inquiry has been ordered into the incident.”

She adde that the state government would provide financial assistance of 500,000 rupees (£4,767) to the families of those killed and wounded in the incident.

Flights were temporarily suspended at the city’s international airport during the storm with at least 15 planes diverted, local media report.

Mumbai is one of several cities in India prone to severe flooding and rain-related incidents during the monsoon season – which is usually between June and September.

(BBC News)

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Former Indian envoy to Sri Lanka, enters politics

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Former Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Taranjit Singh Sandhu has joined India’s ruling BJP and is contesting the elections. After Sri Lanka, he also served in the United States.

He is a BJP candidate from the Amritsar seat and on Friday he declared his total assets worth Rs 39.92 crore, according to his poll affidavit, the NDTV reported.

Sandhu, 61, on Friday filed his nomination papers in Amritsar for the June 1 Lok Sabha polls.

According to his affidavit, Sandhu declared moveable and immovable assets owned by him and his wife to be Rs 10.88 crore and 29.04 crore, respectively.

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New rocky planet with thick atmosphere, detected

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A thick atmosphere has been detected around a planet that’s twice as big as Earth in a nearby solar system, researchers reported Wednesday.
The so-called super Earth — known as 55 Cancri e — is among the few rocky planets outside our solar system with a significant atmosphere, wrapped a blanket of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. The exact amounts are unclear. Earth’s atmosphere is a blend of nitrogen, oxygen, argon and other gases.

“It’s probably the firmest evidence yet that this planet has an atmosphere,” said Ian Crossfield, an astronomer at the University of Kansas who studies exoplanets and was not involved with the research.

The research was published in the journal Nature.

Super Earth refers to a planet’s size — bigger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. The boiling temperatures on this planet — which can reach as hot as 4,200 degrees Fahrenheit (2,300 degrees Celsius) – mean that it is unlikely to host life.

Instead, scientists say the discovery is a promising sign that other such rocky planets with thick atmospheres could exist that may be more hospitable.

The exoplanet 41 light years away is eight times heavier than Earth and circles its star Copernicus so closely that it has permanent day and night sides. A light-year is nearly 6 trillion miles (9.7 trillion kilometers). Its surface is encrusted with magma oceans.

To identify the makeup of its atmosphere, researchers studied Webb Space Telescope observations before and after the planet passed behind its star.

They separated the light emitted from the planet versus its star and used the data to calculate the planet’s temperature. There’s evidence the planet’s heat was being distributed more evenly across its surface – a party trick atmospheres are known for.

Gases from its magma oceans may play a key role in holding its atmosphere steady. Exploring this super Earth may also yield clues to how Earth and Mars might have evolved first with magma oceans that have since cooled, scientists say.

“It’s a rare window,” said Renyu Hu, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who was part of the research. “We can look into this early phase of planet evolution.”

(The Washington Post)

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