Power blackout hits Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan

ALMATY (Reuters) - The central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan suffered electrical power outages in major cities on Tuesday, according to authorities and residents, after a major power line in Kazakhstan was disconnected.

The grids of the three ex-Soviet republics are interconnected, and via Kazakhstan are linked to the Russian power grid which they can use to cover unexpected shortages.

But Kazakhstan's North-South power line, which links densely populated southern Kazakhstan and its two neighbours to major power stations in northern Kazakhstan and the Russian network, was disconnected on Tuesday morning due to "emergency imbalances" in the Central Asian part of the grid, grid operator KEGOC said.

The blackout caused chaos across the region for several hours, with subway trains stuck in tunnels and skiers on lifts, airports closing, district heating and tap water pumps going idle and traffic lights switching off.

Neither of the three countries reported any problems with its power stations that could have caused the imbalances.

Kazakhstan, which has previously experienced power shortages due to the influx of cryptocurrency miners, has started routinely cutting off their power supply and did so from Jan. 24 until the end of the month, according to a document published online by one of the local miners.

Outages were reported in Kazakhstan's largest city Almaty and several major southern cities close to the Uzbek and Kyrgyz borders. The airport of the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, briefly stopped accepting flights.

Authorities in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan said they were restarting power plants after emergency shutdowns and would initially remain disconnected from the Central Asian grid.

(Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Additional reporting by Mukhammadsharif Mamatkulov in Tashkent and Olga Dzyubenko in Bishkek; Editing by Jason Neely and Mark Potter)