Mass power outage hits Australian city

SYDNEY - The northern Australian city of Darwin was thrown into chaos Wednesday with a mass power outage closing schools and public sector offices, and knocking out traffic lights.

A tripped circuit cut power to most of city of some 120,000 people early in the morning, with the government mobilising emergency management protocols as technicians desperately worked to fix the problem.

"Power and Water apologies to customers for today's extended outage. Technicians continue working to restore power," the electricity provider tweeted several hours into the blackout.

The Northern Territory government said all schools would be closed for the day, and the public bus network also suspended.

"Unless advised by their department, Territory public servants are encouraged to stay at home and await further advice on power restoration," it added.

The local hospital and airport were operating as usual, although reports said some hotels had been evacuated with air conditioners out of action in the steamy, tropical city.

Deputy Chief Minister Dave Tollner urged calm.

"People need to stay calm ... and be careful on the roads as traffic lights are down across the city," he was quoted as saying by the Northern Territory News.

The newspaper said the city "eerily resembled a ghost town" on Wednesday morning.