California in darkness as power crisis escalates

Lights have gone out in Beverly Hills, Silicon Valley and other communities in California as electricity blackouts sweep across the state.

Lights have gone out in Beverly Hills, Silicon Valley and other communities in California as electricity blackouts sweep across the state.

Nearly one million customers have been affected in the worst day yet in California's power crisis.

The blackouts are the first since January, but lasted four hours - twice as long as before - and were spread across a much wider area.

Bobbi Brislin, assistant manager of a San Diego Wal-Mart, was forced to clear out 600 customers.

"I couldn't even find the door," he said.

Power grid managers ordered the cuts after electricity reserves fell almost to zero because of a transformer fire, high demand, and a lack of power from idle plants and out-of-state suppliers.

In Ventura, several people were trapped in an elevator near the 11th floor of the 22-storey Dean Witter Building. Maintenance workers helped the passengers escape through the roof of the elevator car.

Edward White, co-owner of Pacific Pawn in West Hollywood, said: "What scares me is it's not even summer yet. There is no solution unless they raise rates or build new generators".

Cuts were last ordered on January 17 and 18, but they were limited to parts of Northern California.

This time, the blackouts stretched from Eureka, 85 miles from the Oregon line, to San Diego and for the first time reached into the suburbs of Los Angeles, which has been unaffected by mandatory outages because it has its own municipal power company.

The blackouts knocked out power in the busy Los Angeles-area port of Long Beach and affected homes in suburban San Diego and the state capital of Sacramento.

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