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Nationwide Blackout Hits Italy

September 28, 2003|From Associated Press

ROME — Power went out across Italy before dawn today, plunging the nation into darkness, police and news reports said. Authorities did not immediately know the cause.

There was no official tally of customers without power, but early reports indicated most of Italy's 58 million people could be affected.

The first outages were reported around 4 a.m. local time in Rome, where Romans were celebrating an all-night festival with museums and restaurants open around the clock.

Later, the national electricity company said power was out across the nation, ANSA news agency said.

"As far as we know, it's all across Italy," police official Franca Sesti Miraglia said in Rome. "We don't know the cause yet," she said.

ANSA said hundreds of people attending the "White Night" festivities in Rome were stuck in subways because of the power failure, but police could not immediately confirm the report.

"We're not aware of anything really serious. There are some problems," Sesti Miraglia said, without giving details. "With the 'White Night,' there were many people out."

In the northern city of Milan, civil defense official Pasquale Aversa said a little power had returned there by 7 a.m.

"In certain parts of the city, electricity has already returned, and that is true also in some areas around Milan," he said. "Obviously, there are problems with having a city in the dark. But given the situation we're in, it's going well." He said hospitals and other emergency centers were using generators.

Information on the outage was hard to come by: The blackout cut access to television and radio, while some government agencies' phone lines were constantly busy or not responding early this morning.

Trains from Switzerland were stopping at the southern Swiss town of Chiasso, unable to enter Italy because of the outage, said Viasuisse, Switzerland's travel information office. Most of Europe's trains are electric.

Italy was hit with partial power cuts in June, when people -- suffering in the scorching summer -- overloaded the system with air conditioners and other electricity-guzzling appliances. That was the first time in more than 20 years that the national operator of the electrical grid ordered power cuts.

Authorities have repeatedly said that power demand is growing faster than supply.

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