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Wednesday, March 8, 2000

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Hawaiian Electric Company workers test the air in a manhole
yesterday at the intersection of Alakea and Queen streets after
smoke was seen coming out of the manhole.

Short circuit smokes
manhole, cuts power

By Leila Fujimori


A short-circuited cable stopped traffic and shut off power in downtown Honolulu yesterday.

Buildings on Queen Street from the Kakaako Fire Station to Mililani Street lost power about 11:30 a.m. and power was restored by 12:45 p.m, a Hawaiian Electric Co. spokesman said.

Queen Street between Punchbowl and Alakea streets was closed to traffic, police said.

Heco began receiving reports that smoke and dust were seen coming out of a manhole at Queen and Richards streets at 11:30 a.m., said Heco spokesman Fred Kobashikawa.

Defective insulation caused the short circuit, Kobashikawa said.

The manhole was vented, the smoke stopped and the area was tested for gases as traffic was blocked off. By 1 p.m., the manhole was covered up.

"We don't see this as a problem that's related with other incidents," Kobashikawa said. "It looks like the insulation failed. We'll check to see when the cable was put there, and exactly what failed" -- the cable, connection or splice.

Repairs to the 12,000-volt cable were to have begun at 6 p.m. last night and were expected to be completed by this morning.

In 1996, a manhole cover without vents blew into the air on Richards Street, shutting off power to downtown offices.

After two manhole fires in 1997, Heco replaced low-voltage cables in the downtown area and replaced solid manhole covers with vented ones, Kobashikawa said. Secondary cable short circuits caused the fires by heating insulation and generating gases that ignited.

The high-voltage cable involved in yesterday's incident had not been replaced during the last upgrade, Kobashikawa said.

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