Monster power cut blacks out more than half of India


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. “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, told AFP.
Federal Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters that the monster outage, which struck around 1:00 pm (0730 GMT) in the middle of the working day, was caused by states drawing power “beyond their permissible limits.” 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. “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 told AFP.
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, told AFP.
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 2:00 am (2030 GMT Sunday), causing massive travel disruption and widespread inconvenience in nine states including the capital New Delhi. In total, 20 out of 28 states were affected on Tuesday, according to an AFP calculation.
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.
Leading the charge were business lobby groups who said Monday’s outage underlined the government’s inability to address India’s perennial electricity shortfall. “The increasing gap between electricity supply and demand has long been a matter of concern,” said Chandrajit Banerjee, director general of the Confederation of Indian Industry. The CII, Banerjee said, has “consistently highlighted” the need for urgent steps to improve supplies of coal to thermal power plants and reforming state distribution utilities. “This latest outage is just an urgent reminder for addressing these issues as a priority.” he added.