July 5, 2010 / 9:35 PM / in 7 years

Toronto hit by blackout after transformer fire

TORONTO (Reuters) - A fire at a Toronto transformer station knocked out power to much of the city on Monday, snarling traffic in the midst of a blistering heatwave, but appearing to have little impact on financial markets.

<p>People proceed through St. Andrew's subway station under emergency lighting during a power failure in downtown Toronto July 5, 2010. REUTERS/Peter Jones</p>

Hydro One, the provincial power company, said the blackout was due to a fire at a transformer station in west Toronto. The company said firefighters were still battling the fire and said it was working to restore power.

Just after 6:00 p.m. (2200 GMT), power was beginning to be restored on parts of the system.

The outage, which brought back memories of the 2003 blackout that hit Toronto and much of the U.S. eastern seaboard, also affected power at the Fairmont Royal York hotel in downtown Toronto, where Queen Elizabeth is due to have dinner later on Monday.

The outage hit around 4:45 p.m. on the hottest day of the year so far in Toronto. By late afternoon, temperatures were still well above 30 degrees Celsius in high humidity, prompting heavy use of air conditioners.

A power outage map on the website of Toronto Hydro showed much of the western half of Toronto affected by the power outage.

The blackout darkened screens on some trading floors of downtown banks and knocked out traffic lights, prompting some people to exit their cars and direct traffic.

Transit service was disrupted on both subway and surface bus and streetcar lines, the Toronto Transit Commission said.

Shaun Osborne, chief currency strategist at TD Securities, a unit of Toronto-Dominion Bank, said the outage had little impact on markets, due to the late hour. It was also a light trading day in Canada because of the U.S. Independence Day holiday.

“It’s not the entire floor. Some people have lost power and other people haven‘t. We’re probably pretty lucky in that it’s a quiet afternoon,” he said.

The Toronto Stock Exchange did not return calls seeking comment on the potential impact on settlements of late trades.

The power outage follows widespread disruption in the downtown core last week when rioting broke out during the G20 meeting of leaders of wealthy and developing countries.

Reporting by Cameron French, additional reporting by Pav Jordan, Solarina Ho and Ka Yan Ng; Editing by Frank McGurty

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