Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"India blackouts leave 700 million without power"

From the Guardian:

More than 700 million people in India have been left without power in the world's worst modern blackout, prompting fears that protests and even riots could follow if the country's electricity supply continues to fail to meet growing demand.
Twenty of India's 28 states were hit by power cuts, along with the capital, New Delhi, when three of the five electricity grids failed at lunchtime.
As engineers struggled for hours to fix the problem, hundreds of trains stalled, leaving passengers stranded along thousands of miles of track from Kashmir in the north to Nagaland on the eastern border with Burma.
Traffic lights went out, causing widespread jams in New Delhi, Kolkata and other major cities. Operations were cancelled across the country, with nurses at one hospital just outside Delhi having to manually operate life-saving equipment when back-up generators failed.
Elsewhere, electric crematoriums stopped operating, some with bodies left half burnt before wood was brought in to stoke the furnaces.
As Delhiites sweated in 89% humidity and drivers honked their horns even more impatiently than usual, in West Bengal the power cut left hundreds of miners trapped underground for hours when their lifts broke down. All teh state's government workers were sent homeafter the chief minister announced it would take 10 to 12 hours for the power to return.
First to fail was the northern grid, which had also collapsed the previous day, leaving an estimated 350 million people in the dark for up to 14 hours. This was quickly followed by the eastern grid, which includes Kolkata, then the north-eastern grid.
An estimated 710 million people live in the affected area, ever more of whom require electricity as they snap up the air-conditioning units, flat-screen TVs and other gadgets that have become status symbols among India's burgeoning middle classes.
The two consecutive blackouts raised serious concerns about India's creaky infrastructure and the government's inability to meet its increasing appetite for energy as the country aspires to become a regional superpower....
At the beginning of July, repeated power cuts during a spell of 40C-plus heat prompted hundreds of residents to vandalise electricity substations in the new city of Gurgaon just outside Delhi. Rioters even beat up energy company officials, holding some of them hostage and blocking roads in several parts of the city.
But despite howls of protest from those whose TVs and computers were not working this week, one-third of India's households do not even have electricity to power a light bulb, according to the 2011 census.
A large minority of those in the blackout zone have never been connected to any grid – just 16.4% of the 100 million people who live in the central-eastern state of Bihar have access to electricity, compared with 96.6% in Punjab in the west.

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