Power cuts during heat-wave sparks rioting in India

Residents rampaged through several towns in northern India early Monday, burning government property and blocking roads to protest power cuts during an intense heat wave.

The cuts in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh meant that residents were left without fans, air conditioners and in some cases water, because electric pumps shut down, as temperatures soared to 40 degrees Celsius (104 F.)

"At least 24 persons have been arrested after angry citizens irked by power cuts came out on the streets and damaged government property," Amrish Mullick, a state government spokesman, said Monday.

"At many places government vehicles and (electricity) transformers have been burnt down," he said.

India faces chronic power shortages as its underdeveloped infrastructure struggles to meet the needs of its growing population and economy. The situation was made worse by the increased demand due to the heat, officials said.

"The situation is bad. Many areas of the state are getting just 8-10 hours of electricity supply," said Ashok Kumar Singh, a senior engineer with the Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation.

"In some towns electricity comes only at night leaving the residents high and dry in the daytime in this scorching summer," Singh said.

The city of Bareilly in central Uttar Pradesh was the worst affected. Many parts of this city went without electricity for over 36 hours. Angry people torched a power substation in Bareilly, 250 kilometers (155 miles) northwest of the state capital Lucknow, on Sunday night.

"At least 16 people were arrested in Bareilly for vandalism," said R.K. Singh, a police spokesman there.

In Gorakhpur, in the eastern part of the state, at least six power company employees were beaten up by rioters.

Meanwhile, in Chinhat, on the outskirts of Lucknow, people pelted stones at buses and torched government vehicles, officials said, reports the AP.

I.L.