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Grid Failure In India Cuts Power To 370 Million

An estimated 370 million people — about 60 million more than live in the U.S. — were without power for at least part of today in northern India because of a massive failure in the country's power grid.

It was "one of the worst blackouts to hit the country in more than a decade," The Times of India reports. The outage turned the morning commute in New Delhi and other major cities in the north into chaos as trains couldn't run and traffic signals went dark, correspondent Elliot Hannon tells our Newscast Desk.

In Delhi, the Times adds, the outage caused "misery on a humid day."

And while about eight hours later authorities were claiming that power had been restored to about 80 percent of customers, "water supplies may be seriously disrupted this evening, because of the power problems," The New York Times' India Ink blog reports:

"Delhi residents are likely to have some water problems this evening, Sanjam Cheema, a spokeswoman for the Delhi Jal Board, said Monday. The water treatment process requires power, she said, and Delhi Water Board's seven water treatment plants don't have a backup power system, because they require 'hundreds of megawatts' to operate."

The Guardian says that India's minister for power and energy, Sushil Kumar Shinde, "prompted widespread incredulity by claiming that India had one of the best power grids in the world and boasting that when the U.S. faced a similar failure in 2008, they took power from India."

Today, India drew some power from neighboring Bhutan as it worked to restore its grid.

Update at 10:30 a.m. ET. More From The Times Of India and the BBC.

The Times: "From railways to Delhi Metro to water supplies, many of the services were severely hit since the grid failed at 2.35am. Office-goers and students faced harrowing times in the national capital where the Metro train services were disrupted."

The BBC: "The country is facing a huge supply shortfall this summer. A shortage of coal (most of India's energy is thermal), loss-making state electricity boards, the theft of power, a lack of transparency in fixing electricity charges and underperforming private distribution agencies mean that vast swathes of India live without electricity for several hours a day."

"Also today:

-- "A fire swept through a train car packed with sleeping passengers in southern India, killing at least 47 people and sending panicked survivors rushing for the only clear exit once the train stopped, officials said." (The Associated Press)

-- A police official "says 30 pilgrims have been killed in a truck collision" that happened in the northern part of the country.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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