There was a blackout across West Bengal with the sole exception of its capital that at worst suffered intermittent power cuts here on Tuesday after the grid serving the Eastern region collapsed at about 1 p.m. While life hurtled out of gear, the power crisis crippled the Railways, leaving more than 150 trains stranded, cancelled or delayed.

Power Minister Manish Gupta said that it would take about 10 to 12 hours for power to be restored to the affected areas across the State as it had to be done in a phased manner.

“Such a huge crisis has never before been witnessed…There has been a major breakdown. There is no power in any of the districts,” Mr. Gupta told journalists. He explained that as Kolkata was isolated from the grid it was not affected.

The city’s Metro services too remained uninterrupted – a major relief for commuters, but those who use local trains were in for a harrowing time even as the authorities of the Eastern Railway and South Eastern Railway struggled to restore services.

While the two Rajdhani Express trains – from Howrah and Sealdah – departed late on diesel engines, some of the other stranded trains were hauled by diesel locomotives to important stations to allow passengers to find alternative means of transport.

It was a long wait for hundreds of passengers, stranded at various stations along the route, but by late evening there was relief for some. According to official sources, 97 trains of the Eastern Railway including 22 long-distance trains were detained at various stations while 60 trains of the South Eastern Railway were affected.

Mr. Gupta said that “a lack of grid discipline has resulted in this collapse.”

While Union Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde told journalists in New Delhi that the States in the Eastern region had overdrawn by 3,000 MW and this had led to the crisis, Mr. Gupta pointed out that West Bengal could not be held responsible as until Monday the State had supplied about 400 MW when the northern grid collapsed.