Munich's blackout on Thursday remains a mystery

Thu 15 Nov

Munich experienced its most extensive power blackout in two decades today when half a million people sat in darkness this morning at 7 am. U-Bahns, S-Bahns and trams ground to a standstill and non-functioning traffic lights caused chaos on the roads as well. The fire-brigade had their fair share to do when many people had to be rescued from lifts, and fire alarm systems went off for no apparent reason. It took about an hour until electricity was restored to all affected parts of the city.

There were about 1000 distress calls to the Fire department between 7 and 9 am - five times more than on a normal morning. In one of the U-Bahns, some commuters had to sit tight for up to 45 minutes before the train resumed its journey.

"We're dealing with probably a technical failure," said the head of SWM-network services, Eduard Bauer. The defect occurred in an interface into the grid from Eon Bavaria. It is still unclear as to what exactly happened.

Stephan Schwarz, the Managing Director of the public utility company, Stadtwerke München (SWM) stated that it might have been a current peak and most probably too much current flowed into the net and hence resulted in a short-circuit. These were only speculations so far.

Criticism of communication deficiencies

For many people in Munich, the main source of information this morning was Twitter. Before SWM made any report of the blackout situation, many people informed one another via Twitter about the state in their districts. "The communication could have perhaps been improved," admitted Stephan Schwarz.

SWM could not quantify the cost of the damage involved.

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