National Geographic remembers the world’s worst power outages.
- Northeastern U.S. and Canada, 1965- The “great Northeast blackout” began when a power surge near Ontario set off a chain of failures across New York State and beyond. The blackout spanned the course of 80,000 square miles. In only four minutes, the darkness fell across Massachusetts all the way to Boston.
2. India, 2012- India’s massive power failures occurred on July 30th & 31st. They were unprecedented in size and left 670 million people without electricity across the nation’s north and east. Before the power was restored on August 1st. about half of all India’s residents were left in the dark by a rolling blackout. The ultimate source of trouble was a predictable one. India’s power structure is often unable to meet peak power demands.
3. Europe, 2006- In November of 2006, during the Norwegian Pearl’s departure down the River Ems, the ship indirectly caused a two-hour power outage for 10 million people on the evening of November 4. The German power company E. turned off a 380,000-volt line over the river so that the ship could pass safely and easily beneath it on its way to the North Sea. The dead line quickly increased pressures elsewhere in the German power grid and sparked a chair reaction of blackouts across parts of Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Austria, the Netherlands, and Croatia.
4. New York, 1977- This massive blackout in NYC unfortunately lead to some vigilante behavior. The lightning-sparked outage lasted July 13th & 14th but left 9 million New Yorkers without power. During this time, arsonists torched buildings like the one below on Marmion Ave in the Bronx. In total they set a reported 1,000 fires. Thieves and rioters also ran loose and trashed about 1,600 stores around NYC.
5. Northeastern U.S. and Canada (Part 2), 2003- On August 15t, 2003, nearly 50 million people were left without power for as long as two days in southeastern Canada and the Northeastern US. It crippled many trains and stranded numerous travelers causing a mass of commutes to cross the Brooklyn Bridge on foot. The U.S.-Canada Power System Outage Task Force came to the conclusion that equipment failures and human error had combined to cause the blackout, which started with power lines shut down after contact with tress.
6. Hunan Province, China, 2008- This blackout was caused by historic winter storms that took out an electrical tower and other parts of the grid in China’s southern Hunan province back in February 2008. In Chenzhou, about 4.5 million people were without power for nearly two weeks. In addition, 11 electricians has already lost their lives at the time the below picture was taken while they attempted to repair infrastructure.
7. Brazil & Paraguay, 2009- On November 10, 2009, the power supply dried up at the enormous hydroelectric works at the Itaipu Dam. As a result, 67 million people were left incomplete darkness. The picture below is of pedestrians attempting to cross the busy street in the dark. The cause of the blackout was due to storms which had short-circuited several vital transformers, completely cutting off power from the largest hydroelectric source in the world. The blackout caused about 1/3 of all Brazilians to lose power for four hours and all of Paraguay saw suspended service for a short period of time.