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Downtown Toronto Suffers Power Outage, Disrupts Banks, Cafes

Kitchen staff wait outside a restaurant during a power outage in Toronto, Canada, Aug. 11, 2022.
Kitchen staff wait outside a restaurant during a power outage in Toronto, Canada, Aug. 11, 2022.

A power outage in Toronto's downtown core Thursday left the offices of Canada's top businesses in the dark, forced the evacuation of one of the city's biggest shopping malls, caused some bank branches to be locked and trapped people in elevators.

Hydro One, Ontario's biggest electricity distribution company, said in a tweet it was investigating reports that a barge carrying a crane came into contact with high-voltage transmission lines and it was trying to reroute power to Toronto Hydro, which distributes electricity in downtown Toronto.

In an update on Thursday, Toronto Hydro said that connections have been restored to about half of the nearly 10,000 customers that were affected.

Toronto is Canada's biggest city and its financial capital, and the central business district is home to the biggest banks, insurers and stock exchange operator.

The power failure saw workers from downtown towers spill onto the streets, taking to sidewalks and parks, while shutting down many cafes and restaurants during the peak business hours.

Toronto Fire Services said it had responded to "numerous calls" for people trapped in elevators during the power outage.

"Came to town for the day – hopped in an elevator just before the power went out. Still in here. Terrible timing," Canada's Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said in a tweet at 1:10 pm. He had since left the elevator.

Branches of the biggest banks, including Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto-Dominion Bank and Bank of Montreal, in the area were locked, and staff were seen sitting in the dark in some locations, according to a Reuters witness.

Neither of the three banks made any immediate comment.

"It was 12:39, we were working in the office and suddenly it went blank," said Santiago Orazco, who works in Scotia Plaza, in downtown Toronto. "A bunch of people have exited from the emergency door along with us."

Underground subway operator TTC said its services were normal though the outage tripped air conditioning. TTC warned that streetcar customers might experience major delays.

The Toronto Stock Exchange said its offices temporarily lost power but its systems did not. University of Toronto said some buildings were affected.

The outage caused traffic lights to stop working in one area, according to a Reuters witness. Toronto Police told people to treat those intersections as four-way stops.

The outage started around noon EDT (1600 GMT). Some Hydro One customers aired complaints on Twitter.

The power failure comes just over a month after a system glitch at Rogers Communications Inc. crippled telecom services for large numbers of users and services across Canada for nearly 19 hours.

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    Reuters is a news agency founded in 1851 and owned by the Thomson Reuters Corporation based in Toronto, Canada. One of the world's largest wire services, it provides financial news as well as international coverage in over 16 languages to more than 1000 newspapers and 750 broadcasters around the globe.