March 27, 2015 / 9:14 AM / in 2 years

Power returns to Amsterdam after outage hits a million homes

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Amsterdam region suffered a power blackout of more than five hours on Friday that hit a million households, forced flights to divert from Schiphol airport and disrupted national public transport networks.

After more than two hours without power, lights switched back on in the Amsterdam financial district and gradually returned to cities across the province of Noord Holland, home to a sixth of the country's 17 million people.

"The power outage brought trams and metros to a standstill, traffic lights went out and people were trapped in lifts," the city of Amsterdam said in a statement. There were no reports of injuries or security problems.

Power outages on this scale are rare in Europe. In December 2013, storm damage deprived 240,000 homes of electricity in France, mostly in coastal Brittany and Normandy.

The most recent region-wide outage was on November 4, 2006, when 15 million people in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Portugal lost power, according to the International Energy Agency.

Travellers faced huge delays on trains on Friday as computer systems were put back online and stations filled with passengers.

Major delays were also reported at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, where all flights were briefly suspended and inbound planes diverted to regional airports. Amsterdam-bound airliners were delayed on the tarmac on airports throughout Europe.

Two hours after the start of blackout, grid operator TenneT said on its twitter feed that it had restored power to its high voltage network in the densely populated province, though restoring local grids one by one took several hours more.

The outage, the largest in recent memory, was caused by a technical fault at a substation in the southern Amsterdam suburb of Diemen, where a backup system also failed.

Reporting By Thomas Escritt and Anthony Deutsch; additional reporting by Victoria Bryan and Vera Eckert in Frankfurt, Sarah Young in London and Geert de Clercq and Michel Rose in Paris; editing by Ralph Boulton

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