Second India blackout in two days cuts power to 670 million
NEW DELHI, (Reuters) – Grids supplying electricity to half of India’s 1.2 billion people collapsed yesterday, trapping coal miners, stranding train travellers and plunging hospitals into darkness in the second major blackout in as many days.
Stretching from Assam, near China, to the Himalayas and the northwestern deserts of Rajasthan, the outage was the worst to hit India in more than a decade and embarrassed the government, which has failed to build up enough power capacity to meet soaring demand.
“Even before we could figure out the reason for yesterday’s failure, we had more grid failures today,” said R. N. Nayak, chairman of the state-run Power Grid Corporation.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has vowed to fast-track stalled power and infrastructure projects as well as introduce free market reforms aimed at reviving India’s flagging economy. But he has drawn fire for dragging his feet.
By the afternoon rush-hour, only about 40 percent of power was back up. Electricity had not been restored to all of the sweltering capital, New Delhi, and streets were clogged with commuters trying to get home.
“It’s certainly shameful. Power is a very basic amenity and situations like these should not occur,” said Unnayan Amitabh, 19, an intern with HSBC bank in New Delhi, as he was giving up on the underground train system and flagging down an auto-rickshaw to get home.
“They talk about big ticket reforms but can’t get something as essential as power supply right.”
Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde blamed the system collapse on some states drawing more than their share of electricity from the over-burdened grid.