A massive power failure hit India for the second day yesterday as three national grids collapsed, blacking out more than half the country in an unprecedented outage affecting more than 600 million people.
Hundreds of miners were trapped underground in the eastern state of West Bengal when the elevators failed, metro services were stopped temporarily in the capital and hundreds of trains were held up nationwide.
“The north, northeastern and the eastern grids are down, but we are working and we will have them restored shortly,” said Naresh Kumar, a spokesman at the Power Grid Corp of India.
Indian Federal Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters that the monster outage, which struck at about 1pm in the middle of the working day, was caused by states drawing power “beyond their permissible limits.”
There appears to have been a domino effect, with the overloaded northern grid drawing too heavily on the eastern grid, which in turn led the northeastern network to collapse.
An area stretching from the western border with Pakistan to the far northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh next to China was affected, with the huge cities of New Delhi, Kolkata and Lucknow suffering without supplies.
“Half the country is without power. It’s a situation totally without precedent,” said Vivek Pandit, an energy expert at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
In New Delhi, the metro train system came to a standstill for a few hours and traffic lights went out, causing chaos for a second day after a failure on the northern grid on Monday that caused the worst outage in more than a decade.
About 400 trains on the national rail network were hit, a railways spokesman said, with all operations stopped in Uttar Pradesh, a state with a population of about 200 million people, bigger than Brazil’s.