A candle burns in a retail shop at Ahyeon-dong, Seoul, after a rolling blackout, Thursday.
By Kim Tae-jong, Kim Rahn, Lee Hyo-sik
An unexpected electricity outage, caused by unseasonably high power demand, struck across the country Thursday, causing a great deal of inconvenience to residents.
Elevators stopped running with people inside being trapped for hours, while motorists fell into confusion as traffic lights failed.
The Seoul Metropolitan Fire and Disaster Headquarters said it received nearly 100 rescue calls from citizens trapped in elevators between 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Other emergency service centers across the country were flooded with similar calls from those trapped inside elevators.
Additionally, motorists plunged into confusion as traffic lights across the country failed due to the blackout, causing heavy traffic congestion and some accidents.
Police officers were immediately dispatched to major intersections to guide vehicles.
Homes and offices throughout the nation were also hit by the power outage, bringing air conditioners and other electronics products to a halt. Citizens had to put up with the unusually hot weather without proper air-conditioning. In particular, restaurants and other eateries were hit harder.
Park Jin-seok, a 46-year-old man who runs a Japanese restaurant in western Seoul, said the blackout started at around 4:50 p.m. and the power came back on around 5:30 p.m.
``Refrigerators and air conditioners did not run and we couldn’t serve customers. We were worried the food in the refrigerators would go bad,’’ Park said.
He said there wasn’t any serious damage as the blackout didn’t last long but it was frustrating and inconvenient during the blackout. ``Stores and cafes in the basement seemed to have a lot of difficulties as they had to light up candles and customers were really shocked.’’
A 33-year-old freelance writer, who identified herself as Kim, was writing a story on her laptop at a cafe in Sindorim, southwestern Seoul, at around 4:45 p.m. when the power was suddenly out.
``A cafe worker went out to check. She returned and said the electricity had failed in the whole building. Another worker was making a juice with an electric blender, but had to tell the customer who ordered the juice that the drink could not be served,’’ she said.
``Some customers in a smoking zone went to leave, but the automatic sliding door separating the zone from the non-smoking area didn’t work. So a male worker forcibly slid it to open,’’ Kim said.
Choi Eun-jeong, a staffer at a gallery near Gyeongbok Palace in central Seoul, had all her document work lost when the power went out suddenly at around 3:30 p.m. as she didn’t save the work on her computer.
``My colleagues and I couldn’t do nothing but wait for the power supply for about 30 minutes. After the power was on again, I had to rewrite everything,’’ Choi said.
Some 250 traffic lights went out in Seoul. A tweeter with Twitter ID “skansk” posted a line, ``I witnessed a car accident at an intersection in Yongsan, Seoul, as the traffic lights are not working.’’