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Hoover Dam transformer explodes; no one hurt

BOULDER CITY (AP) – A transformer exploded on Tuesday at Hoover Dam, one of the nation’s largest hydroelectric facilities, producing a thick cloud of black smoke and flames that were quickly extinguished.

No one was hurt in the explosion near the base of the dam, an engineering marvel on the Colorado River that straddles the border of Arizona and Nevada. Electricity produced at Hoover Dam continued flowing to the eight million people in Arizona, Nevada and Southern California who rely on it, the Western Area Power Administration said.

The cause was under investigation and officials were working to determine the extent of damage to the transformer, one of 15 at the complex that control the voltages for power sent to customers.

“There is no risk to the power grid,” said United States (US) Bureau of Reclamation Regional Director Jacklynn Gould.

The fire ignited around 10am and was out within a half-hour, Gould said in a statement. It captured the attention of tourists who said they heard an alarm sound and felt the ground rumble beneath them.

The explosion occurred on the apron of a building housing turbines that is slightly downstream from the base of the dam, about 40 kilometres southeast of Las Vegas. Hoover Dam is one of the tallest concrete dams in the US at 221 metres. Each of its 17 generators can supply electricity to 100,000 households.

Firefighters spray water after a fire on the Hoover Dam. PHOTO: AP