World Bulletin / News Desk
Half of India's 1.2 billion people were without power on Tuesday as the grids covering a dozen states broke down, the second major blackout in as many days and an embarrassment for the government as it struggles to revive economic growth.
Stretching from Assam, near China, to the Himalayas and the deserts of Rajasthan, the power cut was the worst to hit India in more than a decade.
Trains were stranded in Kolkata and Delhi and thousands of people poured out of the sweltering capital's modern metro system when it ground to a halt at lunchtime. Office buildings switched todiesel generators and traffic jammed the roads.
"We'll have to wait for an hour or hour and a half, but till then we're trying to restore metro, railway and other essential services," Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde told reporters.
More than a dozen states with a total population of 670 million people were without power, with the lights out even at major hospitals in Kolkata.
Shinde blamed the system collapse on some states drawing more than their share of electricity from the overstretched grid. Asia's third-largest economy suffers a peak-hour power deficit of about 10 percent, dragging on economic growth.
"This is the second day that something like this has happened. I've given instructions that whoever overdraws power will be punished."
The country's southern and western grids were supplying power to help restore services, officials said.
The problem has been made worse by weak a monsoon in agricultural states such as wheat-beltPunjab and Uttar Pradesh in the Ganges plains, which has a larger population than Brazil. With less rain to irrigate crops, more farmers resort to electric pumps to draw water from wells.
Power shortages and a creaky road and rail network have weighed heavily on the country's efforts toindustrialize. Grappling with the slowest economic growth in nine years, Delhi recently scaled back a target to pump $1 trillion into infrastructure over the next five years.
Major industries have dedicated power plants or large diesel generators and are shielded from outages -- but the inconsistent supply hits investment and disrupts small businesses.
High consumption of heavily subsidized diesel by farmers and businesses has fuelled a gaping fiscal deficit that the government has vowed to tackle to restore confidence in the economy. But the poor monsoon means a subsidy cut is politically difficult.
On Tuesday, the central bank cut its economic growth outlook for the fiscal year that ends in March to6.5 percent, from the 7.3 percent assumption made in April, putting its outlook closer to that of many private economists.
Greece has already received two bailouts totalling 240 billion euros but fellow euro zone member Ireland said last week that it would have to negotiate a third programme.
The Ukraine crisis has tested the loyalties of Bulgaria, a Balkan country with historical ties to Moscow and heavily dependent on Russian energy supplies.
Syria expels three United Nations aid workers hindering aid development in the country
Russia has overcome a "psychological barrier" and is ready to deepen its economic ties with China, Deputy Prime MinisterArkady Dvorkovich said
With Chancellor Angela Merkel's right-left coalition plus the opposition Greens, it was the biggest majority for any euro zone rescue package so far in the 631-seat chamber.
The agreement commits Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi to cooperate with the United States in customs issues, ease red tape at borders, reduce customs wait times and harmonize trade standards.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has unnerved China with his re-examination of certain projects that Chinahas invested in, including a $1.5 billion "port city" project in Colombo.
EU energy chief Maros Sefcovic invited Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Demchyshyn for talks
Gazprom and Ukrainian state energy firm Naftogaz have accused each other of not sticking to agreements on gas supplies.
The new canal, that will allow two-way traffic of larger ships, is supposed to increase revenues by 2023 to $13 billion.
A day after euro zone finance ministers agreed to a four-month extension of a financial rescue, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis gave a frank assessment of Greece's financial position.
The agreement is the culmination of talks that began in September after the government decided its own solutions to its fiscal crisis were failing to convince investors.
Energy union highlights bloc's attempt to seek independency from its main gas supplier - Russia.
Merkel's right-left coalition is set to prevail, despite vocal pockets of resistance on the right and left.
Republicans passed the bill to increase pressure on Obama to approve the pipeline, a move the president said would bypass a State Department process that will determine whether the project is in the U.S. national interest.
Turkish PM Davutoglu expresses Turkey's readiness to help in supplying energy to Central Europe.