On Friday night, a widespread power outage struck Kenya, leaving passengers at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi in the dark.
The power outage was caused by a “system disturbance leading to loss of bulk power supply” that led to the loss of bulk power supply, according to Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC).
Images of stranded passengers sitting in darkness at JKIA soon surfaced on social media.
The airport operator, Kenya Airports Authority, stated that one of its stand-by generators at the facility did not kick in.
Jambo! Following a nationwide power blackout,one of the generators serving JKIA's T1A & Parking Silo failed to start,resulting power outage in a section of the airport.This has been rectified & all generators are now fully operational.Power has been restored to the affected areas
— Kenya Airports Authority (@KenyaAirports) August 25, 2023
Transport Minister Kipchumba Murkomen apologized for the power outage on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter.
“There is no excuse worth reporting and there is no reason why our airport is in darkness,” he said.
I am really sorry for what has happened at JKIA with the blackout. There is no excuse worth reporting and there is no reason why our airport is in darkness. I will be announcing the decision we will make tomorrow 9am at JKIA after a meeting with the leadership of the airport.…
— KIPCHUMBA MURKOMEN, E.G.H (@kipmurkomen) August 25, 2023
It was not immediately clear how the lack of power at the airport, a key gateway for leisure and business travellers into the country affected flights.
However, on Saturday, the CS claimed that the incident did not pose any danger to the incoming and outgoing flights and passengers, because the backup generator was seamlessly deployed.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the incident though regrettable did not pose any danger to our incoming and outgoing flights and passengers considering that the backup generator lighting the runway and control tower was seamlessly deployed when the blackout occurred and at no time did we have an iota of darkness on the runway and the tower,” Said Murkomen in a statement.
What caused the power outage?
Kenya Power Board chairperson Joy Mdivo-Masinde said on Saturday that the outage was due to a loss of power at the Turkana power station.
“Turkana being down means a lot of power suddenly is not available to the grid, so the limited power that is there has been prioritized and only some substations powered back up,” she explained.
Mdivo noted that most parts of the country will be reconnected to power supply but warned that Kenyans should expect interruptions through the weekend as the situation is stabilised.
“The engineers have worked all night long, and have managed to get our Turkwel power station to put more into our grid,” she said.
“Power will be back, at some point today, but brace yourself for intermittent supply until our engineers, God helping them, get the situation completely resolved,” she added.
Kenya Power restored supply to the airport five hours after the incident began.
However, many homes and businesses were still without power more than 12 hours after the blackout started.
While widespread power outages do happen in Kenya, it is rare for the blackouts to affect operations at the airport, with no reports of such incidents in recent history.
The power outage had a significant impact on businesses and institutions across the country.
The nationwide power outage majorly affected Western Kenya, Rift Valley, Mt Kenya regions, and the Nairobi Metropolis.
Kenya Power has started restoring power in some parts of the country following the nationwide power outage.
In a statement on Saturday morning, Kenya Power confirmed having restored power supply at JKIA.
Areas within the Nairobi Metropolitan considered crucial to the country’s operations also saw their power restored on Saturday morning.
The utility firm also confirmed that it restored power in the Mt Kenya region hours after the system failure occurred.
Kenya Power said they are working to restore power across the county in areas affected by the outage.
“We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience caused and we thank them for all their patience,” reads their statement.
— The Kenya Power & Lighting Company Plc. (@KenyaPower) August 26, 2023