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Second Day Of Mass Power Outages Rocks India


It's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Audie Cornish. We begin this hour in the dark. Today, India suffered what is by far the largest blackout in history, more than 600 million people without power. Yesterday, roughly half that number struggled through a smaller outage. In a moment, we'll ask how a country as developed as India could suffer such a massive power failure. But first, Elliott Hannon is in New Delhi and sent this report.

ELLIOTT HANNON, BYLINE: Hundreds of millions of Indians were just recovering from Monday's crippling blackouts when they were hit with a second, more severe series of outages. Three of the countries power grids failed in the early afternoon leaving half of the country in the dark. In the eastern city of Kolkata, the blackout forced government offices to close early, swamping the city's transport system.

Outside the city, 200 miners were trapped in coal shafts, 3,000 feet underground, when their electric elevators stopped working. While in New Delhi, India's power minister, Sushilkumar Shinde, tried to reassure the country that the problem was getting fixed.

SUSHILKUMAR SHINDE: So alternative arrangements have been made. We have to wait for some time. It will take hour and half to get it at the normalcy. We are tying to do it fast.

HANNON: The minister was overoptimistic. It took many hours before a majority of people got their electricity back. The minister blamed the blackouts on states that had been taking more than they were allowed from the national power system. The electricity shortage has been made worse by a failure of this year's rains that's forced vast numbers of India's farmers to use electric pumps to draw well water to irrigate their crops.

The exact cause of the blackouts, however, is still under investigation. But while the residents of India's cities might be complaining about the blackouts, in rural areas, almost 400,000 million poor Indians never have electricity at all. For NPR News, I'm Elliott Hannon in New Delhi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.