New York City power restored after massive blackout

Photo: AFP

A wide swath of New York's Manhattan borough was plunged into darkness Saturday following a transformer explosion, knocking out power to subways, stores and Broadway theatres, but the city's main utility began restoring power several hours later.

No deaths or injuries were reported due to the blackout, which officials said began at 6:47 p.m. EDT (2247 GMT), and darkened a stretch of the city from West 42nd Street to West 72nd Street, 42 years to the day from a major 1970s blackout that sparked rioting and looting.

"We are proceeding on a path to restore all customers, hopefully, by midnight tonight," John McAvoy, chief executive of utility Con Edison told a news conference. More than 70,000 homes and businesses lost power, officials said.

Shouts of celebration could be heard in parts of Manhattan as power was restored, bringing lights and air conditioners back to life. The cause of the outage was unclear, McAvoy said, adding "it does not appear related to excessive load." A Reuters witness in the area reported hearing an explosion around 7 p.m. (2300 GMT), and a city Fire Department spokesman said firefighters were on the scene of a transformer fire.

Sidewalks in Times Square that are usually crowded with tourists on a balmy summer Saturday night were overflowing as at least some Broadway theatres cancelled performances. The lights of nearby Radio City Music Hall were dark. In an attempt to cheer customers, the cast from the musical "Come From Away" performed a song in front of the stage door.

"Hadestown" cast members also staged a street-side performance. With traffic lights out, cars and taxis jammed intersections as emergency vehicles and fire engines with sirens blaring tried to pass. In some places, civilians stepped in to direct traffic. New York has endured large-scale blackouts before, most recently following Superstorm Sandy in 2012 as well as the widespread 2003 blackout across the U.S. Northeast that left most of the city without power for a day. Saturday's outage occurred on the 42nd anniversary of a New York blackout that crippled the city during a heat wave on July 13, 1977. Power was not restored until the next day.

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