KUALA LUMPUR: A major power outage hit five northern states yesterday, plunging hundreds of thousands of homes and offices in darkness, disrupting business and causing traffic chaos.
The affected states were Penang, Perlis, Perak, Kelantan and Kedah, including Pulau Langkawi.
While supply was gradually restored between an hour and four hours in the five states, several parts of Selangor and Negri Sembilan were affected by power failures.
There were distress calls from people trapped in lifts but emergency services in hospitals were largely unaffected as they could rely on standby generators.
At the KL International Airport in Sepang, six flights were delayed when power was interrupted for about 10 minutes at about 10am.
Disruptions to businesses were minimal although the outage happened on the replacement public holiday after Sunday’s National Day celebrations and all banks and private offices were closed.
Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) president and chief executive officer Datuk Pian Sukro told a hastily convened press conference at 1pm that its northern transmission line tripped at 9.58am.
He said the tripping was caused by glitches in the power distribution system and not because of sabotage or “low voltage capacity.”
“You can rest assured that the interruption of supply was not as a result of terrorist or sabotage acts.
“There is no shortage of electricity supply and it is not a power generation fault,” Pian added.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who was himself caught in darkness while shopping at a bazaar near Beras Bakar in Padang Matsirat, Pulau Langkawi, said he has directed TNB to identify the cause of the outage to prevent a recurrence.
He said Pian had contacted him to brief him on the incident.
On the outage, Pian said the northern power grid collapsed along the 275KV transmission line between Batu Gajah and Rawang during TNB maintenance work on a spare line.
The cascading effect of the trip shut down supply to five states and Langkawi.
Pian said TNB was still investigating the cause of the trip.
He said TNB took advantage of the holiday to carry out maintenance work on the spare transmission line.
“The other standby line was supplying electricity, and it suddenly tripped.
“The safety mechanism failed, resulting in part of the northern grid collapsing. Within three hours 80% of the electricity supply was restored to the affected areas in stages.
“Power supply was fully restored by 2pm,” Pian told reporters at the National Load Dispatch Centre in Jalan Bangsar, the nerve centre and control room for power supply to the peninsula.
Electricity supply breakdowns were also reported in Klang, Shah Alam, Seri Kembangan, Sepang and Banting.
Pian said that these interruptions were unrelated because KLIA was supplied by another agency and the Klang Valley was on TNB's southern transmission line.
Apologising to TNB customers for the inconvenience caused by the outage, Pian said he was happy to note TNB’s emergency response plan worked within three hours to restore supply to the affected areas.
TNB chairman Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussin said at another press conference that the utility company carried out air surveillance to determine the cause of the electricity failure.
The last major national power failure was in August 1996, when nearly all of Peninsular Malaysia was hit by an outage that lasted about 14 hours.
In September 1992, another major outage affected all but three states – Kelantan, Terengganu and Perlis – in the peninsula.
TNB produces about 9,000MW of electricity and it makes up 60% of the total 14,000MW generated in Peninsular Malaysia.