The Telegraph
Tuesday , September 18 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Five-hour power outage at airport

A five-hour power outage at Calcutta airport from 3.15pm left large parts of the terminals without air-conditioning and water supply and plunged the taxi bay, car park and other places into darkness after sundown.

Flights could operate normally as essential power supply, such as that to runway lights, was not disrupted. Some airlines manually checked in fliers because the online system was not working.

CESC blamed the outage on CMDA workers damaging two power cables on BT Road, opposite Baranagar police station.

The non-functioning air-conditioners in the domestic and international terminals caused the most problems. “Many fliers complained of suffocation and discomfort. The water supply also had to be cut off as the pumps could not be operated,” said an airport official.

Generators were used to partially restore water supply so that basic functions were not hampered.

“There was no drinking water for a couple of hours and the toilets could not be cleaned because of lack of water,” said the official.

Only emergency lights were on in the terminals during the outage.

An official of a private domestic airline said they had issued pre-check-in boarding cards to avoid flights getting delayed. “The boarding cards were issued even before passengers arrived for check-in,” said the official.

In the evening, the taxi bays and car parks were completely dark.

“It was scary. I had planned to take a taxi but did not want to walk into the dark taxi bay,” said Sudeshna Basu, a software professional who flew in from Bangalore around 7pm. She took a Volvo coach to Kasba.

CESC’s New Cossipore 100MW generating station supplies power to the airport with the help of two dedicated 9km-long underground cables. Both the main line and the back-up line (both of 33kV capacity) were damaged on Monday.

The airport usually consumes 6-7MW of power daily, enough to light up about a tenth of Salt Lake, according to sources.

CESC restored supply around 8.15pm, working on “war footing”.

“The supply to the old block of terminals was disrupted. The 33kV line to the new block of terminals was unaffected, but the airport still does not have the infrastructure in place to route power from the new block to the old, and vice-versa, during such crises,” said a spokesperson for the utility.