19 states reel under power shock

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19 states reel under power shock

A massive power failure hit India for the second day running as three regional power grids collapsed on Tuesday, blacking out more than half the country in a crisis affecting over 600 million people.


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Published: Tue 31 Jul 2012, 10:23 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 11:41 AM

“The north, northeastern and the eastern grids are down but we are working and we will have them restored shortly,” Naresh Kumar, a spokesman at the Powergrid Corporation of India Ltd, said.

The power crisis hit as many as 19 states, paralysing essential services such as rail and metro operations, besides causing major traffic snarls.

The states affected on Tuesday were Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Sikkim, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.

These states account for half of India’s 1.2 billion poplation.

Federal Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters that the monster outage, which struck around 1pm in the middle of the working day, was caused by states drawing power “beyond their permissible limits.”

Flights operations remained normal.

In New Delhi, the metro train system came to a standstill and traffic lights were out, causing chaos for the second day in a row after a failure on the northern grid on Monday which caused the worst outage in more than a decade.

The Delhi Metro suspended service on all the six lines as power tripped for the second straight day. It normally operates over 2,700 trips a day, covering a total some 70,000 km, to carry around 1.8 million passengers on a week day.

“Drivers of all the metro trains have been asked to stop at the stations. No passengers will be allowed in the metro station until power is restored,” said a spokeswoman for the network which carries two million people a day.

About 400 trains on the extensive national railway network were affected by the outage, a spokesman for the railways said.

In the east, the city of Kolkata was without power as was the surrounding state of West Bengal as the eastern grid, which supplies five states, failed under the stress of over-demand.

“This is the worst power crisis in the region. We were supplying power to the northern grid and this power sharing has led to the collapse,” West Bengal Power Minister, Manish Gupta, said.

Hundreds of miners were trapped on Tuesday after the massive power failure left them unable to operate their lifts, Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal state, said.

“We are trying to rescue the coal miners. All efforts are on to resume power supplies. You need power supplies to run the lifts in the underground mines,” Mamata Banerjee told reporters in the state capital Kolkata.

She said there were “hundreds” of miners trapped in Burdwan, which is about 180 kilometres northwest of Kolkata, where mines are operated by the government-owned Eastern Coalfields Ltd.

“Over 200 miners are stuck in several coal mines. They cannot come out till the power service is restored,” Niladri Roy, general manager at Eastern Coalfields in Kolkata, said.

Roy said the miners had been asked to move to a location where there was good ventilation in the coal mines and a rescue team was trying to supply food and water to the miners.

“We want to bring them out as soon as possible,” he said.

The same process appeared to have also tripped the northeastern grid, which went down shortly after problems developed on the eastern grid.

“This is a big crisis. We are working to restore power. Many states overdraw power and this has caused a complete collapse in eastern and northern India,” said a senior official at the ministry of power in New Delhi.

Smriti Mehra, a teller in a Bank Of India branch in the capital, said the latest outage had caused chaos at work. “Our main server is down. We have had to send back so many of our customers. There is no Internet, nothing is working,” Mehra said.

“It is a total breakdown of everything in our office,” she added.

On Monday, the northern grid collapsed for six hours shortly after 2am, causing massive travel disruption and widespread inconvenience in nine states including the capital New Delhi.

During Monday’s blackout, major hospitals and airports were able to function normally on emergency back-up power, but train services were severely disrupted.

Shinde, the power minister, called it a “failure” but also boasted that India had been quick to restore power, unlike the United States which took days to restore electricity after a 2003 blackout on its eastern seaboard.

He and the rest of the government woke up Tuesday to a barrage of calls for urgent reform of the power sector. —

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