Recent temperatures that soared to 117°F in the impoverished Indian state of Uttar Pradesh had caused blackouts that shut down fans, city water pumps and air conditioners. As temperatures flared, so did tempers as thousands of people, enraged by the power cuts, rioted across northern India. They set electricity substations on fire and took power company workers hostage.
With a population of 200 million (about the population of Brazil), Uttar Pradesh has a 8,000 megawatt capacity. Under normal conditions, many residents receive power for only a few hours a day, with 63% of homes having no access to electricity at all. But due to the heat wave, power demand spiked to 11,000 megawatts which triggered the blackouts.
An electricity substation near the state capital of Lucknow was stormed by thousands of angry residents on June 6, with offices being ransacked and several workers taken hostage for 18 hours until police intervened the next day. About 112 miles southeast of Lucknow, another substation in Gonda was set ablaze which took firefighters 3 hours to subdue. A substation in Gorakhpur, 200 miles east of Lucknow, was also set on fire.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akilesh Yadav said officials had tried to purchase power from neighboring states, but they were also facing shortages due to the extreme heat. Power was largely restored to most areas by June 7. Residents had been particularly angry about the power cuts after having reliable power through the Indian elections, which ended May 16. Since then, only a few regions have had unbroken power, while others have received little to none.
The High Court in the city of Allahabad is hearing a petition alleging discrimination in power distribution and have called on the government to explain why some regions were receiving alleged preferential treatment.
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-The WeatherBug – Earth Networks Team