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Lights out and taps dry in Salt Lake

Salt Lake was an island of darkness lit up only by headlights at 7.03pm on Tuesday. Picture by Sanjoy Ghosh

Trishna Sarkar had never imagined that she would have to one day worry about drinking water sitting in her home in Salt Lake, the showpiece township of Bengal.

At 11.30pm on Tuesday — as the power cut entered its 11th hour — the 73-year-old woman was forced to impose quantitative restrictions on drinking water as the family of five was left with only two 500ml bottles after dinner.

“There is no water at home as we could not operate the Aquaguard due to power outage. When my son went to buy mineral water around 9pm, he could get only two 500ml bottles,” said Sarkar, explaining the reason behind the rationing of water.

For the resident of a two-storeyed house in BD Block in Salt Lake since 1989, Tuesday turned out to be a never-ending wait for the lights to come back on, the fans to start whirring, the water to start flowing.... “This is the longest stretch of power cut I have experienced,” the senior citizen told Metro over phone around 11.30 on Tuesday night.

As the eastern grid collapsed at 1.01pm this afternoon — along with the northern and western grids — Salt Lake went powerless along with the rest of the state.

Unlike Calcutta, where private operator CESC supplies power, over 2.18 lakh consumers in Salt Lake are dependent on the state-owned distribution company, West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Ltd.

Power for the township is routed through 15-odd substations that cater to not only the residents but also scores of key government office buildings like Bikash Bhavan, the Salt Lake stadium, several educational institutions and the IT zone in Sector V.

The peak demand in the township is around 70MW, against a total supply capacity of 80MW.

While residents of Calcutta spent the day with phases of loadshedding in parts of the city due to demand-supply mismatch, the residents of Salt Lake and Rajarhat — like residents in 18 districts in Bengal — were among the worst sufferers of the grid collapse.

Sudarshana Sinha, another Salt Lake resident and a schoolteacher, said that when power went off around 1pm, no one imagined that it would not come back for the rest of the day. “I could not store enough drinking water as I was in school. So drinking water is a problem. If this persists we will be in deep trouble,” said the mother of a five-year-old.

As Salt Lake got humid after it rained briefly in the afternoon and then went dry, a doctor from BE Block decided to move into his friend’s house on Prince Anwar Shah Road. “This is unbearable,” he said, before leaving.