India’s two power outage incidents in two days punished almost a billion people
New Delhi’s Metro shut down and hundreds of coal miners were trapped underground after three Indian electric grids collapsed in a cascade on Tuesday cutting power to 620 million people in the world’s biggest blackout.
While Indians were furious and embarrassed, many took the crisis in stride, inured by the constant — though far less widespread — outages triggered by the huge electricity deficit stymieing the development of this would-be Asian power.
Hospitals, factories and the airports switched automatically to their diesel generators during the hours-long cut across half of India. Many homes relied on backup systems powered by truck batteries. And hundreds of millions of India’s poorest had no electricity to lose.
The crisis was the second record-breaking outage in two days. India’s northern grid failed Monday, leaving 370 million people powerless for much of the day, in a collapse blamed on states that drew more than their allotment of power.
At 1.05pm Tuesday the northern grid collapsed again, energy officials said. This time, it took the eastern grid and the north-eastern grid with it. In all, 20 of India’s 28 states — with double the population of the United States — were hit in a region stretching from the border with Myanmar in the northeast to the Pakistani border about 3,000 kilometres away.
Hundreds of trains stalled across the country and traffic lights went out, causing widespread jams in New Delhi. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asked office workers to go home and rushed generators to coal mines to rescue trapped miners.
By evening, power had been restored to New Delhi and the remote northeast, and much of the northern and eastern grids were back on line. Electricity officials said the system would not be back to 100 percent until today.
At a contentious news conference, R.N. Nayak, chairman of Power Grid Corp., which runs the nation’s power system, said his staff was searching for the cause of the problem and pleaded for patience.
“We have been running this grid for decades. ... Please trust us,” he said.