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CABLE INTENDED TO RESTORE POWER IN AUCKLAND FAILS

A new emergency cable that was supposed to restore power to New Zealand's largest city failed today, trapping people in elevators and snarling traffic just when they thought a five-week blackout was over.

Only hours after the city utility, Mercury Energy, brought the new cable on line and declared the electricity shortage over, the power went out.

"It is what you hate to happen," said Mercury Energy's planning director, Patrick Strange, admitting the power company was deeply embarrassed by the failure.

A faulty sensor on the new cable that was "too finely tuned" tripped a circuit breaker and shut off the line, Mercury Energy said. By the end of the afternoon, it had been fixed, and the line was back in service.

About a fourth of downtown, including the University of Auckland and high-rise office buildings near it, were blacked out much of the day.

The new emergency cable was supposed to end the power crisis plaguing Auckland since Feb. 20.

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