Powering down in town

By Lin Ferguson

An hour-long power outage throughout the Wanganui CBD yesterday left cinema-goers stranded, shop staff unable to work, and one radio personality scrambling to get money from a cash machine.

Lining up at the Embassy Three cinema for a special viewing of the Iranian film A Separation, were about 30 members of the local U3A (University of The Third Age) film society.

Society president Mark Humphrey said every month he organised with the cinema owner to play a selected arthouse movie for the society.

A Separation was to start at 10.30am yesterday, the exact time the power went out. After milling about for a few minutes, they were told to come back next week for a viewing.

"At least we will get to see it... it's had superb reviews," Mr Humphrey said.

Across the avenue, the Papercraft scrapbook shop staff quickly moved students on a school holiday programme out to the pavement so they could continue sticking, cutting and pasting.

Classic Hits radio announcer Andy Mack had just dived out to an ATM machine to withdraw some cash but at the crucial moment when the cash should have been released, the power went out, stranding him without his money and bank card. However, a bank staff member, Fiona Broadhead, rescued the card but the transaction had to be sorted later.

Even with no power you were still able to be slapped with a parking ticket. To be sure of that important time factor, the Wanganui District Council sent their meter technician to ensure the meters were on track doing their civic duty.

All the shops in Trafalgar Square were closed except for Countdown, which was still operating thanks to generators.

A cafe owner in lower Victoria Ave said the outage came at the busiest time of the day for his business. "Fortunately we were able to get through about two-thirds of the people waiting. And we only lost power for about an hour so it shouldn't be too big a deal for the day's takings."

The footpath in Victoria Ave was crowded with shop workers who were unable to work, as their cash registers, eftpos, computer systems, phones and automatic doors failed during the power cut. One worker from Air New Zealand said she was on the phone to a client when the phone went dead, and the computers and lights in the shop switched off. Some shops shut altogether during the power cut while others stayed open, but were unable to serve customers in the semi-darkness.

Wanganui Hospital spokeswoman Sue Campion said while the outage cut power to the hospital, back-up was available. "The generators kicked in immediately and the power cut had no impact on the hospital's clinical areas," Ms Campion said.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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