Power Outage Affects Tens of Thousands of Berliners

Update January 20th, 4:40 p.m.: Fixing the power outage in parts of Berlin will supposedly take until 9:30 p.m..

Construction workers at Berlin’s Salvador Allende Bridge have caused a massive power outage by accidentally destroying an existential cable which connected a central transformer station to the grid. They apparently drilled into the cable. As a result, 31,000 households and 2,000 businesses in the Köpenick, Müggelheim and Lichtenberg boroughs are without electricity.

Crews of technicians are on site. They are trying to reach the 110 kilovolt cable, which is buried deep under the city. Once they manage to get to the cable they can start fixing it. The power outage started at around 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday.

According to Berlin’s Senate Administration, the electrical substation in Köpenick had to be disconnected from the grid, as a result of the issue. The grid operator Stromnetz Berlin told residents they could apply for compensations by filling out an online form. It is unclear whether that message reached anyone affected by the blackout, since radios, TV sets and the Internet do run on electricity.

The energy giant Vattenfall sent technicians who are helping to fix the required cables. According to the company it will take until Wednesday at around 3:00 p.m. to resolve the issue. This means those 31,000 households will have to settle in for a power outage of more than 24 hours in total.

While power failures are very frequent in Balkan countries such as Bulgaria, where they sometimes take place several times a day, they are rare in Germany.

Two thermal power stations, in the Köpenick and Friedrichshagen districts in the German capital are offline too, because of the problem. Therefore, some 5,000 households do not have any heating.

More police patrols and fire brigade units were sent to Köpenick and neighboring boroughs. Residents were told to be very careful with candles and to go to the next firehouse or police station in case of problems, because the mobile communication networks might be offline too.

Also, inhabitants were asked to check whether their neighbors are fine, and to use their car radios once their smartphone batteries give up.

The Berlin fire brigade set up a crisis team, also since the Red Cross Clinic in Köpenick and several care facilities are affected. German-language media reported the clinic did have a power generator, but it did not provide enough electricity for the entire hospital. Several surgical operations scheduled for today and tomorrow had to be postponed.

Update Feb. 20th, 2019,07:45 a.m.: Intensive care patients were evacuated and taken to other hospitals during the night. Ambulances do not take anyone to this clinic anymore.

Many traffic lights do not seem to be operational either. Police told drivers in the area to be very careful at intersections and to expect longer travel times. The public transport operator BVG said many tram and train lines were not in service. Trams which got stuck in Köpenick when the electricity failed were pulled away by heavy trucks.

In the late evening, the local authorities announced all schools and kindergartens in Berlin’s Bohnsdorf, Grünau, Köpenick, Müggelheim and Schmöckwitz districts were going to be closed on Wednesday, because of the power outage. But on Wednesday morning some schools disputed the announcement, saying they would be working.

Residents who still had internet connections on their smartphones posted photographs showing lit fireplaces, school children doing their homework in candlelight and dinner tables illuminated by candles. Some even seemed to be enjoying this experience. It was unclear whether they had mechanical alarm clocks at their disposal, in case they have to get up early.

Photo by Einsatzreport Berlin