Skip to main content

Full power restored after India hit by second huge outage

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN
updated 6:13 AM EDT, Wed August 1, 2012
Heavy traffic backs up at a toll gate along a highway on the outskirts of New Delhi as power outages leave half of India without power Tuesday, July 31. Heavy traffic backs up at a toll gate along a highway on the outskirts of New Delhi as power outages leave half of India without power Tuesday, July 31.
HIDE CAPTION
Crippling power failures hit India
Crippling power failures hit India
Crippling power failures hit India
Crippling power failures hit India
Crippling power failures hit India
Crippling power failures hit India
Crippling power failures hit India
Crippling power failures hit India
Crippling power failures hit India
Crippling power failures hit India
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: A factory owner says frequent outages have forced him to lay off workers
  • Power is restored in New Delhi, northern and northeastern India
  • The country is struggling to meet the demands of a growing population, analysts say
  • Tuesday's blackout deprived half the country of 1.2 billion people of power

Are you affected? Share your story

New Delhi (CNN) -- Crews restored full power to northern India on Wednesday as officials continued to search for the cause of the country's worst blackout in at least a decade.

Half the country lost power Tuesday after three electricity grids failed, leaving an estimated 600 million people -- more than the population of the United States, Mexico and Canada combined -- sweating in the stifling summer heat.

The grids were meeting 100% of demand Wednesday morning, the Power Grid Corporation of India said on its website.

The blackout, the second in as many days, brought trains and traffic on roads to a standstill, while businesses closed and millions of residents sweltered without air conditioning in the summer heat.

Back-up generators kept airports and hospitals running, but the biggest disruption in India's energy network in years has focused attention firmly on the fragility of the system.

Officials say an earlier, smaller blackout on Monday could have been the result of greater energy demand from states, particularly agricultural ones, which had been using more than their allocated share. But the cause of Tuesday's larger blackout has yet to be determined.

What went wrong with India's power?
India regains power after major outages
Blackouts blow India's economy
India cabinet shakeup amid blackouts

Analysts said the successive failures exposed the government's struggle to upgrade the country's power grid to meet the demands of a growing population.

"The country has added 16% to its power grid over the last year, and this pace of growth is likely to continue over the next two or three years, so it's not as if the government isn't doing anything," said Arun Sundararajan, a professor at the Stern School of Business at New York University

"They have projected a 40 to 50% increase in the power capacity of the country over the next five years," he said. "It's just that at a transition time like this you are going to see situations where demand outstrips supply."

With about 1.2 billion people, India has the world's second-largest population, behind China.

During the blackout, at least 300 trains were held up in the affected regions, said Anil Kumar Saxena, a spokesman for Indian Railways.

New Delhi's metro system also suffered delays before power was restored, causing chaos for many travelers. Traffic signals also were out, resulting in major jams.

Train fire in India kills 32; death toll may rise

Frequent power outages are also wreaking havoc on businesses.

Nuts and bolts maker Harjit Singh is forced to cut production in half due to power failures in his factory, on the outskirts of New Delhi. He said he went six days straight without power.

Singh runs machines on a big diesel-guzzling generator in his plant, which supplies truck and tractor companies.

The fuel Singh uses to run his factory has led to a spike in production costs. The owner said he has had to lay off daily-waged laborers due to cash crunch.

Miners in the Burdwan District of West Bengal state were hit by the blackout, too.

The district's top administrator, O.S. Meena, told CNN that 150 coal miners were working underground when the outage struck, stopping lifts.

The authorities switched to emergency supplies to run the elevators, he said. "All are safe," Meena said about the miners.

Airports and hospitals, running on backup power, remained operational, but many businesses closed, said Jyoti Kamal, senior editor for CNN-IBN. The cause of the problem was the failure to generate sufficient power to keep pace with surging demand, he said.

Power is considered a luxury in much of India, where a third of households don't have enough to power even one light bulb, according to last year's census.

Energy shortages tend to be more common during the summer, when demand rises.

Some of this summer's increased demand has been caused by farmers using more energy for irrigation and other tasks, in part because rains during this year's monsoon season, which began June 1, are down by more than a fifth. People are also using air conditioning units more to cope with high humidity.

The monsoon rains, which last through September but would normally be at their heaviest in July and early August, not only provide rain for agriculture and hydroelectric power, but serve as a natural coolant, said CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller.

Humidity exceeding 80% makes the mid-90s Fahrenheit temperatures feel like more than 100 Fahrenheit. This makes it harder for buildings to cool at night, and harder for people to cool themselves through evaporation of perspiration, all of which lead to higher energy demands, Miller said.

Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who has ordered an investigation into Monday's outage, said it had been a decade since an entire grid last failed in north India.

Prakash Javadekar, a member of India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, criticized the government for what he said was "a huge failure of management in the power sector."

India -- the world's fourth-largest consumer of electricity -- relies on coal for much of its energy but also uses hydroelectric power, which has been affected by the diminished monsoon rains.

Observers say the crisis has exposed the need for India to update its infrastructure to meet its growing power needs.

"Economic growth is constrained by inadequate infrastructure," among other factors, the U.S. State Department's country report on India says.

"Foreign investment is particularly sought after in power generation," it adds, as well as areas including telecommunications, roads and mining.

Vulnerability of U.S. electrical grid a concern

Four ways the Internet could go down

Australia's Melbourne Airport goes black

CNN's Jethro Mullen, Mallika Kapur and Jennifer Delgado contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 7:27 PM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.
ADVERTISEMENT