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Millions Left In Dark By Central Asia Power Blackout

ALMATY/BISHKEK (Reuters) -- Millions of people in Central Asia have been plunged into darkness as a malfunction in the regional electricity grid caused a massive blackout in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz officials said.

The southern part of Kazakhstan, including the commercial hub Almaty, and northern Kyrgyzstan have been affected, Kyrgyz Energy Minister Ilyas Davydov told Reuters, adding the cause of the blackout remained unknown.

"We are looking into it," Davydov said.

A spokeswoman for the Kyrgyz electricity-distribution firm Severelektro said the malfunction occurred on a high-voltage line connected to Kyrgyzstan's main hydroelectric plant.

In Almaty, Kazakhstan's largest city with a population of about 1.5 million, road traffic was in chaos as police tried to restore order in complete darkness under pouring rain.

Residents of the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek have also been left without cold water, which is delivered using electric pumps.