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Delhi heatwave prompts crisis measures to save power

The New Delhi government was cutting power at shopping malls and turning off street lights as the mercury soared to avoid a repeat of a power crisis two years ago, an official said Monday.

NEW DELHI: The New Delhi government was cutting power at shopping malls and turning off street lights as the mercury soared to avoid a repeat of a power crisis two years ago, an official said Monday.

The government announced a string of emergency measures to conserve power in the Indian capital as the temperature hovered close to 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) on Sunday, the highest in six decades.

Government offices, universities and colleges have been instructed to switch off air- conditioning units between 3:30 pm (1000 GMT) and 4:30 pm.

Power to shopping malls, where many Delhi residents flock to beat the heat, will be cut at 10:00 pm and street lamps will be switched off for three hours after 10:00 pm.

Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, who heads the Delhi government, urged residents and private offices to do their bit to save power, including by turning down their air conditioners.

"The Lieutenant Governor has appealed to the citizens to come forward and help conserve energy," his office said in a statement on Sunday.

A Delhi government official told AFP on Monday that the restrictions would be imposed for about three weeks after which the monsoon was expected to hit Delhi, resulting in cooler temperatures.

The measures come after an embarrassing power crisis two years ago that blacked out half the country and left more than 600 million people without electricity.

The two days of massive outages in 2012 were blamed on energy-hungry Indian states drawing power beyond their allocated limits.

India's power industry has long struggled to meet rapidly rising demand in Asia's third largest economy, with poorly maintained transmission lines and overloaded grids.

Power consumption in the capital of 16 million residents has surged in recent days leading to electricity cuts in some areas and heightening fears of another crisis.

Damage to some transmission lines during a recent major thunderstorm has added to the problems.

The government's statement said power distribution companies will be forced to announce their planned cuts in advance so that residents are not caught off guard.

"Whenever there is less supply of power, the power distribution companies will announce a schedule informing people about the timings when electric supply will be cut," the statement said.

Emergency services and "critical institutions such as hospitals," remain unaffected by the new measures, the statement said.

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