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News Wrap: In Northern India, 370 Million in the Dark after Power Grid Fails

July 30, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
In other news Monday, in northern India business, transportation, and public utilities came to a halt after 370 million people lost power for hours. Also, North Korea faced torrential rain, which put large parts of the country under water.
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KWAME HOLMAN: Three hundred and seventy million people were in the dark for hours across northern India today after a major power grid crashed. That’s more than the population of the United States and Canada combined. The power outage halted mass transit systems, causing major delays. And it left commuters and residents furious and frustrated.

G.K. SEHGAL, India: My day began without water. And then there were other problems. The whole system was at a standstill. That goes into show how vulnerable we are. One grid failure, the entire country of north India was at a standstill. This is a system failure, systemic failure. We are so vulnerable as a people just because we are ordinary people.

KWAME HOLMAN: Smaller blackouts occur almost daily in India. This one was the largest ever. Officials blamed high demand for electricity in a long spell of summer heat. Power was fully restored by evening, about 15 hours after the outage struck.

North Korea was drenched by more heavy rain today, with much of the country already inundated by flooding. Large parts of Anju City, north of the capital, were underwater. People were getting around by boat in water-filled streets. And thousands of acres of farmland were submerged completely. The floods follow a severe drought, and are likely to worsen food shortages in North Korea.

The stock market put on the brakes today after last week’s major rally. The Dow Jones industrial average lost two points to close at 13,073. The Nasdaq fell 12 points to close at 2,945.

And now, we have some of the results from day three of the competition at the Summer Olympics in London. Tune out for a minute if you don’t want to hear.

In swimming today, American Missy Franklin won the women’s 100-meter backstroke. But Ryan Lochte missed out on a medal in the men’s 200-meter freestyle. France took the gold. And China won its second straight gold in the men’s team gymnastics.

Meanwhile, Olympic organizers struggled to fill scads of empty seats left unused mostly by sports federations. They’re being given free to soldiers, teachers and students.

We have this report from Steve Scott of Independent Television News.

STEVE SCOTT: You seldom see an empty seat at Wimbledon, even when it’s to watch the less-celebrated players. But when Roger Federer strolls on to center court, you can guarantee a full house. Well, not today, not at London 2012. Yet, if you come looking for a ticket, you will be turned away.

WOMAN: It’s really, really disappointing. I would have hoped that the Olympic organizers would have sorted this out by now.

STEVE SCOTT: The prime minister, who rode the tube to the Olympic Park today, told me there was no complacency. Filling the gaps was a priority.

PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON, United Kingdom: There will always be a bit of a problem because you do need to leave some seats available for the accredited people, that is, the Games’ family, the people from the various sporting organizations. So, you’re never going to have total perfection. But we can do better, and I’m determined we will.

STEVE SCOTT:
If you’re looking for evidence that the organizers are getting top of this problem, perhaps the basketball arena this morning provides a good example. Turkey’s were taking on the Czech Republic in a preliminary round, hardly a blue-ribbon event, yet there was barely a spare seat in the house.

JACKIE BROCK-DOYLE, London 2012 organizing committee: We were able to put back into the pot for sale around 3,000 tickets last night. They have all been sold.

STEVE SCOTT: But where it’s not possible to wrestle back space from national associations not using their allocation, the military are offered a bird’s-eye view.

But no explanation, however rational, would cut much ice with the millions who tried and failed to get tickets online and are now forced to watch the action from home played out in front of half-filled stands.

KWAME HOLMAN: Those are some of the day’s major stories.