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The BBC's Jill McGivering in Delhi
"Millions of homes and businesses lost all power"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 2 January, 2001, 14:52 GMT
Massive power cut hits India

A massive breakdown in power supplies in India left millions of people in the capital, Delhi, and across the entire north of the country without electricity.

Engineers are now reported to be gradually restoring power across the region - home to some 230 million people.

Unless we take direct steps... such problems can recur

Power Minister Suresh Prabhu
The power failure began at 0430 (2300 GMT), after what officials described as a fault in the transmission system plunged much of north India into darkness.

Rail networks were hit, as well as Delhi's international airport.

Officials from Power Grid Corp, the government agency that runs the electricity network, said power would be restored in a few hours.

"We have been able to get almost 80% of the northern grid back up to normal," an official was quoted as saying.

Reading by candlelight
North India was plunged into darkness
The northern grid is a transmission network that links seven northern states.

A spokesman for the Indian Rail Ministry told the BBC that commuters travelling short distances to work were the worst affected.

The BBC's Jill McGivering says that by lunchtime dozens trains were still stranded between stations, blocking routes and causing considerable delays as the pressure built up.

Emergency services, utilities and telephone services were said to be affected in many states.

The official residences of the president, prime minister and senior government officials were also temporarily without power.

Huge losses

The Indian power ministry has announced an enquiry into the collapse of the entire northern electricity grid.

Power Minister Suresh Prabhu said part of the problem was the mismatch between limited supply and increasing demand on the system.

Rail travellers
Massive delays hit rail travellers
"Unless we take direct steps... in terms of improvement of system, making enough investments into transmission and distribution... such problems can recur," he said.

The Confederation of Indian Industry said it was estimated that businesses had lost between 2.5-5 billion rupees ($107m) because of the breakdown.

Although occasional power failures are quite common in India, a failure on such a large scale is relatively rare.

The states of Punjab and Haryana were hit, along with parts of Uttar Pradesh.

Kashmir, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh were also reported to be without power.

The Press Trust of India said the disruption began with a fault in the Panki substation in Uttar Pradesh, which triggered a breakdown of the entire northern grid.

Many homes, businesses and emergency services in India have generators which provide back up power during a power failure.

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