The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rain legacy: power crisis

Calcutta, July 11: A power crisis has crept up on an unsuspecting south Bengal, the shortfall today touching the highest level in recent times and plunging large swathes into darkness for hours.

The root of the shortage lies in last week’s blinding rain that left 20,000 tonnes of coal soggy and unusable to generate power.

Ironically, the outage hit Calcutta the hardest on a day a business survey listed power among the state’s strengths.

The cumulative peak-hour shortfall in areas served by CESC and the West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company shot up to a staggering 823mw — four times than usual. In Calcutta alone, the deficit was around 200mw — against the season’s daily average of 60-70mw.

Power cuts in the city and its adjoining areas ranged from one-and-a-half hours to over two hours and in the districts from five hours to six hours.

Officials saw little chance of a noticeable improvement tomorrow. “This is really unfortunate but we are helpless,” said S. Mahapatra, the managing director of the Power Development Corporation, which runs the power plants in the state.

Power generation was going through a rough patch since Monday with the wet coal forcing the corporation to close down two 210-mw units at its Kolaghat thermal plant.

The situation worsened last night when a 500-mw unit at Farakka collapsed after a tube leak. This evening, a 210-mw unit at Bakreswar developed a similar problem and packed up.

“Already we were handicapped at the Kolaghat plant. The breakdown of the Farakka unit and the Bakreswar unit in less than 24 hours really compounded the problem,” Mahapatra added.

CESC officials said that as a result of the crisis, the distribution agency imposed heavy restrictions on supply to the city grid. CESC then purchased about 134mw from Tripura and Andhra Pradesh.

The officials are hoping to put back on track at least one of the Kolaghat plants by tonight.

“We are unloading the 300 wagons of wet coal with great difficulty. Today, about 100 wagons of good coal arrived but we can’t feed them into the boilers right away as the wet wagons are standing in the way,” Mahapatra said.

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