Chaos, as major power outage hits New York

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A major power outage on Saturday evening hit parts of New York, the commercial capital of the United States (U.S.).

The blackout, which occurred in Midtown Manhattan, the city’s economic and administrative centre, disrupted traffic light, elevator and subway services.

This resulted in heavy traffic gridlock in affected streets and avenues, leaving many commuters stranded.

Local media reports say the outage occurred just before 7 p.m. (midnight Nigerian time) following a fire outbreak at a power substation on West 49th Street.

Con Edison, the city’s leading electricity service provider, said no fewer than 70,000 customers were without power in the affected area.

In a tweet, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) said various underground stations were affected.

It added that trains were bypassing stations affected by the power failure, and that service into Manhattan from areas such as Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, would be limited.

The Mayor of New York, Mr Bill de Blasio, said the city’s emergency management agency was working with the police and fire service to respond to affected areas.

Coincidentally, Saturday marked the 42nd anniversary of a major blackout in 1977 which affected much of the city for 48 hours.

Reports say that incident resulted in widespread looting, arson and other criminal activities.

The Governor of New York, Mr Andrew Cuomo, issued a statement saying he was hopeful power would be restored by midnight (5 a.m. Nigerian time).

Later in a live television interview, Cuomo said he had ordered the deployment of more police officers  and paratroopers to help in traffic control and tighten security in the city.

He said the spread of the outage from the substation where it started showed that the power company failed to install circuit breaker.

The incident triggered social media reports of ordinary citizens directing traffic at some intersections.

The New York Fire Department said it received reports of people stuck in elevators on the Upper West Side and subway passengers stuck on trains.

Several events, including an ongoing concert by American pop star, Jennifer Lopez, at Madison Square Garden, one of the affected places, were cancelled. 

More than 70,000 people were affected by the massive power outage.

Midtown Manhattan and the Upper West Side were affected.

“We are responding to extensive outages on the Westside of Manhattan,” a spokesman for energy supplier Con Edison tweeted.

Shortly before midnight, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said power had been restored.

“Power was restored to remaining customers,” the mayor tweeted around midnight. “I want to thank all of our first responders, the men and women of the NYPD, FDNY and @NYCEmergencyMgt for their hard work tonight — and every New Yorker for responding to the black out with that trademark NYC grit and toughness.

During the Saturday evening blackout, elevators were stuck and traffic lights were out while some subway stations were closed, local media reported.

Several Broadway shows were cancelled at short notice.

Some artists gave impromptu performances on the pavement outside theatres.

A concert at Carnegie Hall resumed in front of the building once the audience had reassembled outside.

While many stores closed early, lots of bars and restaurants stayed open. Some of the electronic billboards on Times Square went dark.

There were no reports of people injured and no reported arrests.

De Blasio earlier said the power outage appeared to be the result of a mechanical problem in the electrical grid.

“This appears to be something that just went wrong in the way that they transmit power from one part of the city to another,” the mayor told CNN. “It sounds like it is addressable in a reasonable amount of time.”

The mayor was campaigning in Iowa and was due to return to New York late Saturday, his campaign press secretary told the U.S. broadcaster.

Firefighters were responding to numerous transformer fires as well as people trapped in elevators and subway cars, a Fire Department spokesman said.

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