[IWAR] OUTAGE consequence; New Zealand

From: 7Pillars Partners (partnersat_private)
Date: Tue Feb 24 1998 - 09:51:29 PST

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    Power failure brings New Zealand's largest city to standstill
     February 24, 1998
     Web posted at: 12:15 p.m. EST (1715 GMT) 
     AUCKLAND, New Zealand (CNN)
     -- A five-day-old power blackout has
     shut down most of New Zealand's
     largest city, plunging stores into
     darkness, leaving food in refrigerators
     to rot and creating bumper-to-bumper
     gridlock at intersections. 
     All four main cables into the central
     city have failed, the last giving out on
     Friday, cutting electricity to
     downtown offices and more than
     5,000 apartments. A backup cable is
     still operating but is barely strong
     enough to supply emergency services.
     Officials at municipal power company
     Mercury Energy said it was unclear
     why the cables failed but that extreme summer temperatures may
     have played a part. 
     Power isn't likely to be restored before next week. 
     Auckland's normally bustling downtown business district was
     deserted, its hotels, restaurants, banks, shopping malls and office
     towers empty except for police on patrol against looters. 
     Trying to cope, retailers had moved their merchandise to city
     sidewalks, but heavy rains and gale force winds Tuesday forced
     them to flee indoors. 
     Business leaders estimate the cost
     of the blackout has already reached
     tens of millions of dollars. Deputy
     Prime Minister Winston Peters told
     Parliament the crisis could cut up to
     0.2 percentage points from the
     nation's economic growth. 
     "We've got one of the most modern
     cities in the world being reduced to
     Third World status," Peters said. 
     City Mayor Les Mills said there was no doubt the central city was
     in crisis but that it was unlikely a state of emergency -- where civil
     defense personnel take over -- would be declared. 
     Municipal services were holding up and police had increased their
     presence on inner city streets. 
     Firemen had been busy dealing with overheated generators "and
     people doing silly things like lighting gas barbecues in their closed
     apartments," Mills told a news conference, adding there had on the
     whole been very few incidents of concern. 
     Public health faced no great threat
     and water and sewerage systems
     were functioning. 
     "But we still, in conjunction with the
     police particularly, do not want an
     influx of people back into city -- this
     is purely a safety issue," he said. 
     Some 6,000 residents, mostly
     apartment-dwellers, have been
     advised to move out. 
     "We don't want people killed, injured or putting their health at
     risk," he said. 
     "We are still very conscious of the fact that this is a crisis. We are
     planning for a further deepening of this, should, for instance,
     Mercury have a failure of their last line." 
     However, he said declaration of a civil emergency would only be
     considered "as a very last resort." 
     Power company officials say full power will not be restored to the
     city until at least March 8. 
     The government has ordered an inquiry into the crisis, including an
     investigation into whether Mercury had allowed services to
     Mercury said one of the city's four supply cables should be
     restored by Sunday, boosting the amount of available electricity to
     50 percent of normal levels. However, there was no guarantee that
     the final cable would not also fail. 
     Several business community groups called for firings at Mercury,
     but Gibbons said he was confident nothing could have been done
     to foresee the failure. 
     Auckland tourism spokesman Lance Bickford said most of the
     major city hotels were now being supplied by generators. 
     "But a lot of small businesses have been devastated," Bickford
     "It is very serious, clearly. The corporate community is not staying
     in the major hotels because (downtown-based) business houses
     have closed." 
      The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
    from CNN [http://www.cnn.com/]

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