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300,000 lose power near Cape

Hundreds of thousands of people lost power last night in southeastern Massachusetts from New Bedford to Provincetown to the islands, closing stores, heightening danger at busy intersections, and forcing rescue workers to increase the number of ambulances responding to emergency calls.

 

"Preliminary indications" were that some 300,000 people lost power as a result of a fire at the Canal Electric Plant in Sandwich and a transmission line out of service from an earlier problem, said Mike Durand, a spokesman for NStar, the region's dominant electric utility. The power outages began around 6:15 p.m., and NStar had restored power to most of its clients by 8 p.m., Durand said.

A spokesman for Atlanta-based Mirant, the company that owns the Canal Electric Plant, told the Associated Press, "It's not clear at this point whether something triggered the plant to go offline and caused the fire" or if the fire caused the plant to go offline.

In New Bedford, a city of nearly 100,000 people, police reported no major incidents. But Mayor Fred Kalisz said the Fire Department had 11 ambulances responding to emergency calls last night. Normally, he said, only three ambulances are on the streets at once.

"It's very frustrating," said Kalisz, who added that it was the city's worst power failure since 1965. "All streetlights and traffic lights were out." On Nantucket, where some 10,200 people receive power from Nantucket Electric Co., fire officials said there were no significant problems to report.

Thousands of people began improvising during the outage. Mary Moynihan of Marstons Mills was doing some online Christmas shopping when her lights went dead. Her family gathered in the kitchen and played Monopoly until the power came back on. "We got out the board games and candles," she said.

Globe correspondent Jennifer Longley contributed to this report.

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