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Power out for days in downtown Calgary

CALGARY — About 10,000 employees can expect a major interruption to their routines today as a swath of downtown Calgary remains in the dark and will stay that way for several days.
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A worker walks past two huge spools of electrical wire as crews attempt to restore power in Calgary.

CALGARY — About 10,000 employees can expect a major interruption to their routines today as a swath of downtown Calgary remains in the dark and will stay that way for several days.

The massive power outage, which began Saturday night after a fire in an underground vault, affected more than 100 buildings, 2,100 businesses and 5,000 residents.

Businesses in the affected zone were encouraged to contact employees over the weekend and make plans for alternate work arrangements. With the power outage affecting everything from computer servers and phone lines to elevators and parkade doors, employees will have to work from home or another off-site location until at least Thursday, when Enmax, the city’s utility, hopes to restore electrical service, the Calgary Herald reported.

Thousands of people have been forced to find someplace else to live. In addition to no power, the outage means no water above the fifth floor because pumps aren’t working and possible loss of landline phone and Internet service. In a statement on its website, the City of Calgary said while there isn’t a mandatory evacuation, residents in buildings without power are being encouraged to stay with family and friends.

Emergency water wagons have been set up around downtown. The city is arranging accommodation for residents who don’t have a place to stay.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said that businesses in the affected area should tell employees not to come to work today, and the city will assess whether people outside the outage zone should also avoid coming to work downtown after the Thanksgiving break.

Among workplaces in the blackout zone are key commercial buildings such as the Standard Life Building, Bantrel Tower, Fifth and Fifth, AMEC Place, Plaza 1000, and Trimac House.

The outage is forcing Calgary’s provincial courthouses to remain closed until Thursday.

Premier Jim Prentice told a news conference in Calgary that his own office in the city was without power, and that Nenshi offered the use of City Hall.

“Calgarians have in recent years endured a number of events, but I think on each occasion it’s shown everyone the character that we have in this city and this province. We’ve all pulled together to help out with neighbours and we’ve shown that incredible Calgary spirit through all of this,” Prentice said.

Prentice said he and Nenshi agreed they would delay discussion about provincial financial assistance until later, noting they agreed there were other more important things to focus on first.