New York City’s Manhattan area was briefly plunged into darkness on Saturday night as a transformer fire shut off power to thousands of people in the country – and 42 years ago the same thing happened, prompting a surge of crime across the city.
Subway passengers were stranded inside boiling hot train cars and lifts, Broadway shows were cancelled and pedestrians stepped into the path of vehicles after traffic lights shut down.
The New York City Fire Department said a transformer fire triggered the blackout, which hit a 30-block stretch from Times Square to about 72nd Street and Broadway, to the west of Central Park.
Lucy Gray, The Independent’s assistant audience editor, was in Midtown when the power went out.
It was absolute chaos. All the Broadway shows were being cancelled and the streets were absolutely packed.
Traffic lights stopped working and policy were have to help emergency services get through.
All the shops and restaurants were in darkness and it felt like an apocalypse movie.
There were remarkable scenes when the power was eventually restored as literally cheers were heard when the lights came back on.
This isn’t the first time it happened
On July 13, 1977, the city had suffered a 25-hour blackout that brought about a wave of crime.
Though the one in 2019 lasted a few hours and electricity was restored to businesses by midnight, the one in 1977 went on for 25 hours, and as a result, crime broke out, with stores set alight and widespread looting.
Across Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx, more than 1,000 fires were set, some 2,000 properties were vandalised, two people died and 436 police officers were injured, a government study found.
The impact assessment recalled the chaotic events of that night:
As darkness fell and the blackout continued, large-scale civil disorders erupted and thousands of youths and adults engaged themselves in heavy looting and arson.
A total of 1,037 fires were started in sections of Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and The Bronx, of which 60 were major. Arsonists were responsible-for-the fires started in commercial establishments supermarkets, appliance and clothing stores.
Between the"hours of 9:35 p.m*, July 13th to midnight July 14th, 1977, there were a total of 1809 incidents of property damage as a result of looting and vandalism, two civilian deaths, and injuries sustained by 436 policemen, 204 civilians and 80 firemen.
There were close to-3000 arrests made which swamped the City's already overcrowded and overburdened judicial system. Table 2-l shows a comparison of relevant statistics comparing the 1965 and 1977 blackouts.
Thousands of protective service personnel were required to report to duty and many of them were forced to work several shifts; Decentralized command was organised in each borough to cope with the many problems associated with the coordination and operation of the protective service agencies during the emergency.
The 1977 blackout had been caused by thunderstorms that triggered malfunctions at the Con Edison system, as well as a lack of preparations on the part of the city, for major emergencies.