Thousands stuck beneath London by power outage

November 25, 1993|By Carl Schoettler | Carl Schoettler,London Bureau

LONDON -- A massive power failure created chaos in London's Underground railway system at the height of the morning rush hour yesterday, stalling 26 trains and trapping thousands in blacked-out tunnels for up to three hours.

"We believe we walked out through the tunnels 20,000 passengers," said Ralph Shires, spokesman for the underground. The breakdown occurred at the network's busiest time.

"The power went down at 8 o'clock; the last [passengers] were out sometime just after 11," he said. "It was matter of minutes in some cases and three hours in some."

The fire brigade mobilized more than 20 emergency vehicles, including 13 ambulances, before about 8:30 a.m. But no one was seriously injured.

Three people were taken to hospitals. Many were treated at the scene with oxygen after climbing up from tunnels, sometimes through air shafts. The tunnels are up to 80 feet below ground.

Commuters scrambled for buses and taxis, crowding sidewalks at major Underground links, sometimes breaking into angry altercations when British reserve was tested by line-jumpers.

Power failed in cables and generators at a 70-year-old part of the network in East London, but the actual cause eluded engineers throughout the day.

Trains limped back into service line-by-line only in midafternoon, running a half-hour slow during the evening rush hour.

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