Reuters, via MSNBC, via Slashdot, reports:

MOSCOW - Electricity was suddenly cut off to swathes of Russia’s capital on Wednesday bringing large sections of the public transport system, including underground train services, to a halt.

Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko, speaking in parliament, said the breakdown had been caused by an explosion at a electricity substation but he did not say what caused the blast.

Moscow’s main stock exchange was suspended. The MICEX foreign exchange bourse stopped trading for one hour because, though it had power, many of its clients did not.

Trams and trolleybuses ground to a standstill and traffic lights stopped working, causing a flurry of road traffic accidents, Itar-Tass news agency reported.

The underground train system was halted and suburban commuter trains on several routes in and out of the city were also affected. Water supplies to homes were also disrupted.

The outage also affected large parts of the nearby Moscow and Tula regions.

A transport police spokesman said emergency power systems were used to bring underground trains into stations and no one was left stranded underground.

“There are no trains with people stuck in stations,” the spokesman told Reuters.

Russia’s electricity monopoly RAO UES said the problem at the substation forced engineers to switch off large parts of the power system to avoid overloading power lines.

A spokeswoman said there was no prospect of the outage spreading across the national power grid.

“Work is under way … to restore power. We are working to bring backup electricity supply lines on stream. Some consumers have been switched back on,” said spokeswoman Marita Nagoga.

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Updated: 7:43 a.m. ET May 25, 2005