Mumbai: Outage causes max city to take mega tumble; trains, offices, exams halt in their tracks

With a pandemic lurking in the backdrop, a mega disruption in power supply caused the mega city of Mumbai and its surrounds to take a mega tumble in broad daylight on Monday. While those at home sweated it out in the sweltering heat, local trains came to a halt, prompting commuters to get off and walk on the tracks; crowds swelled in buses, while hospitals cancelled surgeries and several colleges under Mumbai University postponed final-year online examinations on Monday morning after a grid failure resulted in a massive power outage across Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane for several hours. 

Suburban services on both Central Railway and Western Railway came to a sudden standstill. Railway officials said all the suburban, as well as long-distance trains were held up on tracks from 10.05am owing to grid failure in the nation's financial capital.

Services on the Harbour line, that connects Mumbai with Navi Mumbai, were the first to resume, at 10.55am, while the Main line network between CSMT-Khopoli and CSMT-Kasara resumed at 12.26pm. According to Western Railway, the services on its suburban network were restored at 12.20 pm.

With fans and lights inside the locals switched off in the stranded trains, several exasperated passengers decided to jump off and walk on the railway tracks to the next station.

“It is the first time I have witnessed such an incident, where trains have stopped due to power failure, instead of an overhead equipment problem or rail fracture. We were stuck in between two stations, so I was forced to get down on the railway tracks so that I could catch a bus to reach office on time,” said Shweta Singh, a public sector bank employee.

Several special services of outstation trains were also hit by the power grid failure, forcing railway authorities to reschedule their departure.

Essential service providers, who are permitted to board local trains, were forced to board buses to reach their workplace. Longer queues were seen at the bus stops as a result, and the buses failed to cater to the increase in demand. Commuters were agitated that BEST was operating buses at 50 per cent passenger capacity and many got into the buses and refused to get off. Social distancing was cast off, with BEST forced to ply crowded buses.

"People became aggressive and forced themselves in. All of them were in a rush as train services were halted and they had to reach their workplace at any cost," a bus driver at the Mumbai Central bus depot told The Free Press Journal.

However, some officegoers were forced to give up and return home. "Our train stopped when we were between Goregaon and Jogeshwari. We had to walk down the tracks till the highway, but there was a long queue at the bus stops and the frequency of buses was pathetic. I decided to return home and went back to the station," said Sunil Shinde, a Kandivli resident.

The power outage hit traffic management on the roads, as 95 per cent of the 650 traffic signals and the entire CCTV camera network in Mumbai went offline. Police said the entire force had to be deployed on the field to man traffic, as it was difficult to monitor bottlenecks or traffic disruption without CCTV cameras.

In some instances, the outage also caused incidents like employees of an upscale business complex getting stuck in the elevator in the times of social distancing. After a few tense minutes, the employees were safely evacuated, going by a video circulating on social media.

SURGERIES CANCELLED: Healthcare services at civic-run hospitals in Mumbai were affected, with major hospitals forced to cancel their scheduled surgeries. Resident doctors bore the brunt as they attended to patients in the outpatient departments in the dark, wearing PPE suits in the heat.

Doctors at the BYL Nair Hospital said all emergency wards like casualty, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and Covid-19 centres had adequate supply of electricity. However, other civic-run hospitals like Sion Hospital and King Edward Memorial (KEM) hospitals shut off power supply to their OPDs and general wards, to save diesel.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), however, in an official statement said that treatment services in all civic-run and private hospitals went smoothly as they were equipped with alternative power supply.

BMC Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal asked all hospitals to contact their transport garage officers to get enough diesel to operate generators for at least eight hours, so that there were no power failures, especially in the ICUs.

EXAMS POSTPONED: Several colleges postponed final-year online exams of Undergraduate (UG) and Postgraduate (PG) programmes. Degree colleges under various clusters in South Mumbai, Dadar and Bandra area rescheduled final year online examinations, while some colleges in Vile Parle and Andheri area continued to conduct the exams till 2pm, giving extra time to students.

Students who were preparing to appear for their ongoing final-year exams online from their homes, were inconvenienced by the power failure from 10 am. Ujwala Potdar, a final-year student, said, "I could not start my WiFi network because there was no electricity. I tried to appear for the exam starting at 11am using my smartphone but the phone's battery charge was just 25 per cent. I am so relieved that my exam has been postponed."

Cluster colleges in South Mumbai such as KC College, Jai Hind College and HR College at Churchgate and Wilson College, Charni Road postponed their exams due to the power failure. Cluster colleges in Bandra also postponed the exams. However, some colleges under the Andheri west and Vile Parle west cluster continued to conduct exams on Monday till 2pm.

The Maharashtra State Common Entrance Test (CET) Cell rescheduled the exam at five exam centres in the Mumbai region. The CET Physics-Chemistry-Mathematics (PCM) subject group examination for admission to professional courses began from October 12 and will be conducted till October 20, 2020, at 175 test centres in Maharashtra.

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