Archive for Saturday, July 20, 2002

Fire at utility plant knocks out power to tens of thousands in New York City

July 20, 2002


— A fire at a utility plant Saturday blacked out power for tens of thousands of people in a swath of lower Manhattan and snarled transportation around the city.
The power was expected to be out through Sunday and extra police officers were being deployed in the blacked out areas, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Police and National Guardsmen blocked off streets and directed traffic as other streets crowded with onlookers. High-rise apartment buildings were darkened, and some complexes were evacuated.
Bloomberg said there was no evidence the fire was caused by anything other than an accident.
The apparent cause was a transformer explosion at the plant, which provides power for much of lower Manhattan, said Joe Petta, a Consolidated Edison spokesman.
"It sounded like a jet plane crashing and then a big thing of black smoke went up in the air," witness Michael Koster said.
"First we heard a big noise then we saw the black smoke," deli owner Alex Darwish said.
About 63,000 customers lost power in areas south of 14th Street to the lower tip of Manhattan, utility spokesman Mike Clendenin said. The neighborhoods affected included Greenwich Village, SoHo and Tribeca.
Nurses were seen working with flashlights at nearby St. Vincent's Hospital, but hospital administrators said critical care was not affected.
"Having gone through previous disasters such as 9-11, we are a pretty well-oiled machine," said hospital vice president William Grice.
The fire was contained about two hours after it started, fire department spokesman Dave Billig said.
"They're still putting water on it," he said.
Many streets near the power plant and a swath of Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive, a major highway along the east side of Manhattan, were closed. Most subway routes through the area were suspended or rerouted.
Consolidated Edison said some of its workers were inside the plant at the time of the explosion. No injuries were reported.
The utility said once the fire was out, its workers would enter the burned area to assess the damage to equipment and what repairs would be needed.

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