Stretford , Urmston , Trafford Photographer

Power Firm Worker Cuts Electricity To Millions

A single electrician has been blamed for a blackout which left nearly five million people across southern California, Arizona and Mexico without power.

San Diego Airport cancelled all outbound flights, traffic was brought to a standstill, water supplies dried up and supermarkets were forced to host barbecues to sell off defrosting stock after the outage at a sub-station in Arizona.

Reports suggest the failure was the fault of one worker, with emergency radio station KOGO reporting that two power plants were “down” as a result of the error.

Arizona power company APS said “the power outage appears to be related to a procedure an APS employee was carrying out”.

An investigation is already under way to discover how one incident led to a domino effect across the region.

“There appears to be two failures here – one is human failure and the other is a system failure,” said Damon Gross of APS.

Officials in San Diego, California’s second-largest city, ordered schools to stay closed as power could not be guaranteed.

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders warned people to stay off the roads and asked people to limit their mobile phone use.

Mayor Sanders also announced two sewage pumps had failed, contaminating a river feeding into San Diego bay and a natural lagoon in Torrey Pines State Park.

In Mexico, the blackouts knocked out power to hundreds of assembly plants in the industrial town of Tijuana, just south of the border with the US.

Power was lost in the regional capital, Mexicali, as well as in Ensenada and Rosarito.

Mexico’s Federal Electricity Commission said it had been able to get 180,000 customers back online, and “it was making progress” in restoring power to other areas.

Staff at a seaside market north of San Diego set up a barbecue to cook their stock of tuna after refrigerators failed.

“It’s real hectic. But the customers are happy, everybody’s patient, everybody’s in a good mood,” said manager John Shamam.

Almost exactly six years ago California suffered a near-identical power failure.

Los Angeles was brought to a standstill after a worker cut through wires at a power station on the outskirts of the city.