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The outage left millions sweltering in the summer heat. Muslim families were forced to eat their pre-dawn meals by candlelight before beginning their daytime Ramadan fast. “It was really difficult,” said farmer Mohammed Zaman.

As officials struggled to get the grid back on line, they drew power from the neighboring eastern and western grids as well as hydroelectric power from the small neighboring mountain kingdom of Bhutan.

New Delhi residents were roused from sleep when their fans and air conditioners stopped, and came out of their homes in the heat as the entire city turned dark. Temperatures in the city were in the mid-30s C (90s F) with 89 percent humidity.

Some trains across the northern region were stranded when their electric engines failed. Others were delayed by hours as they were hooked to diesel engines.

The failure was the first time since 2001 that the northern grid had collapsed. But India’s demand for electricity has soared since then as its population and economy have grown sharply.

But any connection to the grid remains a luxury for many. One-third of India’s households do not even have electricity to power a light bulb, according to last year’s census.

The power deficit was worsened by a weak monsoon that lowered hydroelectric generation and kept temperatures higher, further increasing electricity usage as people seek to cool off. Shivpal Singh Yadav, the power minister in Uttar Pradesh, home to 200 million people, said that while demand during peak hours hits 11,000 megawatts, the state can only provide 9,000 megawatts.

Uttar Pradesh Power Corp. chief Avnish Awasthi blamed the grid collapse on states drawing more than their allotted power to meet the summer demand.

 

Associated Press writer Biswajeet Banerjee in Lucknow and Aijaz Hussain in Srinagar contributed to this report.