Shops and pubs plunge into darkness as power cut

PRINCES Street shops were plunged into darkness last night as a faulty cable caused a two-hour blackout covering two city-centre blocks.

At least 25 businesses had to close or operate in near darkness after a cable tripped and began to smoulder at an empty building in West Register Street.

Fire crews where called to the empty city-centre site at around 5:10pm after the building began to fill with smoke.

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Lights and till systems shut down at the entire shopping block opposite the Balmoral Hotel – including Waterstone's, the North British Hotel and the Disney store – and nearby pubs the Guildford Arms, Cafe Royal and Voodoo Rooms were affected.

On the next block, police were called when the alarm system at Barclays bank on St Andrew Square was triggered, while York House, where the Times Educational Supplement offices are based, was also in darkness.

Shoppers flooded out on to the streets, while staff in many of the shops closed early for the day.

Han Phan, manager of Saigon Saigon on South St Andrew Street, had to evacuate his buffet restaurant after the lights went out and kitchen appliances switched off.

He said: "We had to get all of the tables and the staff out, and everything went off in the kitchen. We've also had to turn people away as well.

"Hopefully I will be able to claim for the loss of business on the insurance."

Meanwhile, as most restaurants shut, Voodoo Rooms carried on serving pints and making what food they could in the dim light.

Chef Fraser Dingwall said: "The lights flickered a few times then went out just after five o'clock. We've put candles out to light the place. We're still serving drinks and I reckon I can still make sandwiches in the dark."

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The manager of the Guildford Arms said: "The tills started acting up and then went off, so we're just doing everything the old-fashioned way, people don't seem to mind."

A spokeswoman for the fire service said: "We were initially called to reports of a fire in a basement, and used four breathing apparatus to investigate the source.

"The crew found a fault in the electrical wiring, which had caused there to be a large amount of smoke in the building.

"Scottish Power identified the source of the fire and were looking into restoring the supply of power to the area."

Power was restored to the area at 7:20pm after engineers rerouted the local system.

A spokeswoman for Scottish Power said that 11 of its customers, including HMV and Edinburgh City Council, along with other businesses, lost power for just over two hours last night.

She added: "We had a cable fault in the area, and we apologise for any inconvenience caused."

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