Kolkata: Hundreds of thousands of people across West Bengal had a harrowing time as the state witnessed a total blackout triggered by the Eastern Power Grid’s sudden collapse. The power outage also left thousands of passengers in several trains stranded.
The grid, which collapsed yesterday afternoon, led to severe power outage in all the 18 districts of the state, Power Minister Manish Gupta said.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee ordered all government offices to declare a holiday for the rest of the day to enable the employees to go home and appealed to people to maintain calm.
“The Eastern Grid has collapsed... it is a big disaster. All 18 districts of the state are going to face power outage. We have started the repair work. But normalcy can’t be restored before tonight as repair work will take at least 10-12 hours,” Gupta told IANS.
According to the spokesperson of West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd, “the power generation in five plants that mostly supply power to Bengal had come down to nil. Private power Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation (CESC) which supplies power to Kolkata, suffered a shortfall of 500 Mega watts leading to power cuts. But the situation in Kolkata is far better than that of other cities like Delhi or Lucknow.”
Train services were stalled at major junctions like Howrah, Sealdah and Asansol divisions because of the grid failure. According to South Eastern Railway large areas under its jurisdiction in West Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha and Bihar were seriously affected. Twenty-six trains were stalled in the Howrah-Kharagpur section, 11 on Kharagpur-Bhadrak and four on Kharagpur- Tatanagar sections.
The grid collapse severely hit Chakradharpur, Kharagpur, Adra and Ranchi divisions of the South Eastern Railway, though a little power was available from Jharsuguda, Kolaghat and Santragachi.
“The railways is trying to run the local train services by using diesel engines wherever possible specially during the evening rush hours or millions of people will be stranded as they will not be able to return home from office,” said Union Railways Minister Mukul Roy.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, “We request people not to panic. The authorities are trying their best to restore power, but considering the magnitude of this problem, it won’t be solved so soon. Metro Rail services in Kolkata are running with power drawn from CESC Limited. The situation is far better in Kolkata, but all the other districts of West Bengal have plunged into complete darkness and that is a major worry for the government. “
Though Kolkata was not severely affected, its satellite township Saltlake plunged into darkness leaving hundreds of Information Technology companies gaping for power. “We are running on backup, but that will only last for a while. We may have to stop operations if power doesn’t get restored soon,” said an official of Tata Consultants Services, the largest software company in India.