Berkeley Campus Evacuated After Explosion Tied to Copper Theft

The campus of the University of California at Berkeley was evacuated after a power failure and explosion linked to the theft of copper wire, a university spokesman said.

Four to six people received minor burns in the blast yesterday and one was treated at a hospital, said Dan Mogulof, the spokesman. About 20 people were temporarily trapped in elevators by the failure, he said. It wasn’t clear whether classes would be affected today.

The campus-wide blackout began about 4:30 p.m. local time. It was followed about two hours later by the explosion in an underground electrical vault outside California Hall, which houses the university chancellor’s office near the center of campus, as engineers were restoring power, Mogulof said.

Investigators believe the outage and explosion were linked to the theft of copper wire “at a remote location not on the Berkeley campus,” Mogulof said. Police are investigating the theft and trying to find those responsible, he said.

An ammonia leak was reported in Latimer Hall, where the Chemistry Department is located, that was probably related to the power failure, the campus newspaper, the Daily Californian, reported on its website, citing university police Lieutenant Marc DeCoulode.

Power was being restored at about 9 p.m. local time yesterday, Mogulof said.

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