The power crisis that hit northern India turned into a larger blackout a day later Tuesday to affect as many as 19 states not just in the north but also in the east and northeast, paralysing essential services such as rail and metro operations, besides causing massive traffic snarls.
"Grid incident occurred at 1 p.m., affecting the northern, eastern and northeastern grids. The system is under restoration," said the official website of the eastern grid, among the such systems managed by the state-run Power System Operation Corp Ltd.
The states affected Tuesday were Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Sikkim, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.
These states account for half of India's 1.2 billion poplation.
Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who had constituted a committee to probe the failure Monday, attributed the collapse on the second straight day to overdrawing of power by some states and said efforts were on to fetch electricity from other regions.
"Alternative arrangements have been made. I have put all my men at work. We are getting power from western grid. We will try to restore services of the Metro and the railways first," Shinde told reporters.
There was, however, little respite for some 300,000 rail passengers, who were stuck in over 300 trains across eight states, after the power failure crippled such operations
across six railway zones in the country.
"Failure in the northern and eastern power grid has affected railway operations across six of our railway zones. Over 300 passenger trains are stuck," Anil Saxena, additional director general for public relations in the railway ministry, told IANS.
The Delhi Metro suspended service on all the six lines as power tripped for the second straight day. It normally operates over 2,700 trips a day, covering a total some 70,000 km, to carry around 1.8 million passengers on a week day.
A spokesperson for Delhi Metro said after the services were suspended, entry to stations was halted and the trains under operation were brought to the nearest Metro station for evacuation. The Delhi Disaster Management Authority also helped in evacuation.
A couple of hours later, Metro services resumed partially.
In the national capital, and in most other cities, traffic was also severely affected as traffic signals tripped and caused major snarls at intersections. Some 4,000 traffic police personnel in Delhi were immediately deployed to bring some semblance of order.
"Traffic signals are not functioning due to the power failure. We are trying to manage traffic manually. This has slowed down traffic," Joint Commissioner-Traffic, Satyendra Garg, told IANS.
Flights operations remained normal.
Speaking to reporters at around 4 p.m., chairman and managing director of Power Grid Corp of India R.N. Nayak, said close to 50 percent of power had been restored in the northeeastern region and 20 percent in the north.
Nayak also said the failure was due to overdrawal of power by some states and that a full inquiry would reveal the nature of the problem. He added that every effort was being made restore supplies fully by 7-7.30 p.m.
He said excess power drawn by one state had a cascading effect on the three grids. He, however, did not name which state had overdrawn power.