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Endesa - Electricity, Gas, People

The biggest electrical blackouts in history

Published on September 8, 2017

New York, Ontario, India… Millions of people in cities and entire countries had to find a way to survive during the largest electrical blackouts in history. Do you know which they were?

No tv and no beer made Homer Simpson go crazy. Well imagine what it would be like if you had to go a day or two without tv, without your refrigerator, without internet, without air conditioning... Has anything like that ever happened to you? Not us and, quite honestly, we wouldn’t know what to do without our precious artificial light.

Your electricity has probably gone offon more than one occasion, either through an electrical storm or a system fault. But, can you imagine being plunged into darkness for hours or even days?

You wouldn’t be able to play your daily video game or post anything on your favourite forum. And not to mention if you have an electric hob, you would have to open a tin of sardines for dinner. And you would have to have a cold shower in the morning. But at least a cold shower would really wake you up straight away in the morning. Every cloud has a silver lining…

Since electricity was invented there have been some massive electrical blackouts across the globe, which were mainly due to technical faults and human errors, although some were also the result of natural disasters.

Do you want to find out more? Do you want to find out which were the worst? Endesa will take you through you the 5 largest blackouts in the history of humanity. Grab a torch and a couple of candles just in case and read on:

New York, USA. 1977

The best known and most documented is perhaps the New York City blackout of 1977. It occurred on the 13th of July and lasted almost 24 hours. 9 million people were affected by an incident that led to a serious wave of looting and robberies, leaving behind 1,600 damaged stores and 1,000 fires caused by acts of vandalism. The blackout was the result of a bolt of lightning, which led to the Indian Point nuclear power plant being disconnected. Meanwhile, a second bolt of lightning affected two 345 kV transmission lines, which had to close because of the power surge. And this led to the chaos. Some say this blackout had a direct impact on the popular growth of hip-hop. Why? Simple, many youngsters from disadvantaged suburbs made the most of the darkness to steal sound systems and record players, which they were unable to buy. The number of DJs in the city multiplied by the following day.

Ontario, Canada 1965

Still on the American continent, we go back to the 9th of November 1965, when a faulty or badly adjusted security device in the Sir Adam Beck station in Ontario, Canada, caused a 230 kV transmission line to disconnect, leading to a chain reaction. This failure resulted in a 13-hour blackout, affecting over 30 million people in the US regions of New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont and the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario.

Auckland, New Zealand 1998

However, the record for the longest blackout in history belongs to the city of Auckland, the capital of New Zealand, lasting 66 days! It all began on the 19th of February 1998 with a few problems with a simple power supply cable. This led to others becoming overloaded and one by one they started to fail, “thanks” to the fact that the electrical system was noticeably deteriorated. The good part is that it only affected part of the town, leaving around 6,000 people without electricity.

The longest blackout in history took place in New Zealand and it lasted for 66 days

Italy 2003

Europe has had its fair share of blackouts too. The Italians can confirm this when, on the 28th of September 2003, they suffered a blackout that lasted between 3 and 18 hours, depending on the location. The accident affected almost the entire population, around 57 million people and it was the result of some fallen trees that impacted on a high voltage line during a storm. At least the blackout took place at 3am, so most people didn’t have to eat cold spaghetti from the day before.

India 2012

In terms of affected population, the largest blackout in history was recorded in India in 2012. Well, actually there were two blackouts: the first took place on the 30th of July and affected around 300 million Indians. But the next day, another took place affecting a total of 700 million people in 20 states across India. According to the authorities, it all began as a result of the excessive power demand of certain Indian states and the weak inter-regional power transmission corridors. Not a minor detail.

Maintenance avoids unpleasant situations

Blackouts are not exactly a fun experience. In order to avoid this, Endesa recommends OKLuz, a repair and maintenance service with an annual period inspection of your electrical installation and technical assistance without any callout limitations and which includes travel time and the first 3 hours of labour.

Furthermore, emergency callouts are attended in under 3 hours, 365 days per year. And in addition, if you sign up for it, you will benefit from a 50% discount on the service during the first year. With OKLuz your electrical installation will always be in perfect condition.