Friday, July 20, 2012

Blackout hits Havana's colonial tourist zone

Posted on Thursday, 07.19.12

Blackout hits Havana's colonial tourist zone
The Associated Press

HAVANA -- A blackout left thousands without power Thursday in much of
Havana's colonial quarter, a densely populated neighborhood popular with

The outage coincided with a Wednesday night explosion and fire related
to the area's underground electrical system at an apartment building on
a central plaza.

"We heard the explosion, and when I went out on the balcony I saw fire
and smoke," said Mayra Gonzalez, who lives nearby. "We stayed outside
until midnight because we were afraid."

The following day a charred smell still hung in the air, and the
building's portals and yellow facade were blackened from the flames and
smoke. There were no reports of injuries or deaths.

Dozens of shops and restaurants were closed. Most hotels switched to
backup generators and were functioning normally, though at least one was
without power or water.

"There is nothing," said Jens Peter, a 31-year-old bodyguard visiting
from Berlin. "They put candles in the rooms."

Electricity went out in other parts of Old Havana following another
explosion Thursday morning several blocks away on a well-trafficked
pedestrian street. Many businesses including an optician's shop next
door were forced to close.

It was not clear what caused the blasts. Government officials did not
immediately respond to a request for comment.

Service was being restored to at least some buildings by the afternoon.

Old Havana, home to about 91,000 people, was declared a World Heritage
site by UNESCO in 1982.

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