How does the worst-ever Indian blackout compare with other major power outages?
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Reat this story at the International Business Times.
By Gurmukh Singh
TORONTO: How does the worst-ever blackout witnessed in India this week compare with other major blackouts in the world?
The Great Indian Blackout, which impacted more than 680 million people across 20 states, has been rightly billed as one of the world's worst power outages when the northern, eastern and northeastern grids collapsed one after another over withdrawal of electricity by some states.
Millions of travellers were stranded as trains came to a halt. The blackout hit metro rail sytems, airports, hospitals, emergency services and other utility services.
Without pinpointing the culprits, India's PowerGrid chairman A.M. Nayak said these "things happen in milliseconds. We have the data from some 100 critical sub-stations. Only after a proper analysis and reconstruction will we be able to identify the reason."
Luckily, there were no social costs in terms of chaos and vandalism as the nation calculates the cost of the two-day blackout. Curiously, America, with all its technological prowess, is the world's topper in terms of blackouts.
In fact, the November 1965 blackout across the northeast of the US and parts of Canada that lasted 12 hours and impacted 30 million people, still stands out in the minds of Americans. Thousands and thousands subway travelers and elevator users were left stranded for hours on November 9 when fuses went off.
In fact, the blackout spawned the so-called "blackout baby boom" when New York became "Fun City" for a few hours. But the birthrate boom was never really proved even though doctors, in articles by the New York Times in 1966, reportedly claimed a jump in birthrates exactly nine months after the infamous blackout.
The 1965 blackout also became the subject of the hilarious comedy film "Where Were You When the Lights Went Out" by Doris Day in 1968. Apart from Day, the film also starred Robert Morse and Terry Thomas, with its title song "When the lights went out..." sung by the Lettermen.
The movie became famous for its taglines such as: "Oh, the liberties that were taken the night New York flipped its fuse...and became fun city." But during the black out New York remained calm and witnessed only a few stray incidents of arson.
However, the Big Apple was to witnesses the biggest violence of any blackout when the city was plunged into darkness on July 13, 1977.
The scale of looting can be gauged from the fact that more than 30 major areas of the city were hit by vandals during the darkness. Hundreds of cops were injured as vandals looted stores and set them on fire. More than 4,000 arsonists were arrested.
The blackout inspired the BBC's 2007 documentary called "Nightmare in City That Never Sleeps." The 1977 blackout also inspired the soulful song "New York Blackout" by Soul Asylum.
Though the United States was hit by other major outages in 1996 and 2003, nothing compares to what happened during these two earlier blackouts.
The 1996 blackout was triggered by short-circuits caused by the hot weather which led power lines to sag and get entangled with trees. The areas hit were mostly western states of the US.
Lightning was the cause of the August 2003 blackout to hit New York and surrounding areas.
Just as recently as this July, America's day of independence - July 4 - was marred as storms crippled power supply to the US capital and surrounding areas.
If the 1965, New York outage triggered the blackout baby boom and the film "Where Were You When the Lights Went Out," will the Great Indian Blackout inspire the script writers and directors of Bollywood to create: "Jab Batti Gul Huyi, Aap Kahan Thai." (Global India Newswire)