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Rome's all-night party goes black

September 29, 2003

ROME — Rome's experiment with the idea of an all-night festival to glamorize the benefits of urban living this weekend only served to underscore some of the perils of city life.

In the middle of the round-the-clock cultural festivity, intended to brighten up the streets of the capital throughout the witching hours, all the lights went out.

Most people at first thought that the blackout, a result of a nationwide power failure, was part of the fun.

"A big clamor went out as though people were asking 'who is the joker that switched out the lights?' I thought it was part of the long night," said Christophe Girard, the assistant mayor in charge of culture in Paris, who attended the Rome event.

Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni borrowed the concept of the all-night event from Paris Mayor Bernard Delanoe, who was stabbed and seriously injured during the Paris festival a year ago.

Delanoe was also there at Veltroni's side. The openly gay mayor, now recovered from his injuries after being attacked by a homophobic assailant, had proposed an all-night festival for "lovers of freedom and pleasure" in an international city.

Veltroni also had proposed a night of fun and friendship, and when darkness suddenly fell, no one at first seemed concerned.

"People thought the blackout was due to over-consumption because of the long night, although the news that the whole country had been plunged in darkness quickly circulated," Girard said.

"But it was a happy atmosphere, and there was general good humor."

People continued to stroll in the darkened streets until five in the morning amid the faint light of car headlights. The partying continued in the Capitol, the town hall, where a generator provided enough power to light two salons.

The mayor's office said at least a million people turned out for the festival and despite the darkness, no major incidents were reported.

Electricity was restored to the Italian capital shortly before midday (1000 GMT), while power was restored to the northern cities of Milan and Turin a few hours earlier.

The mammoth power outage caused havoc on public transport, leaving up to 30,000 passengers blocked in trains, and passengers trapped in the underground systems of Rome and Milan as escalators ground to a halt.

French and Italian electricity officials said the outage had been triggered by a sudden interruption on power lines from France, caused by a storm. –Sapa-AFP



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