April 3, 2006

US Capitol evacuated during power outage

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Capitol was evacuated for
about an hour on Monday after electricity was briefly lost,
putting much of the building in the dark.

Lawmakers, staff and credentialed journalists were
permitted to reenter the building at about 1:15 p.m. after
power had been restored, though tourists were not immediately
allowed back in.

There was no immediate word on what caused the outage at
about noon. Capitol Police said the matter was being

The chief of staff for Senate Republican Leader Bill Frist
said both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate were
evacuated because of the widespread blackout. Neither was in
session at the time.

"It's routine procedure to evacuate the building," said
spokesman Eric Ueland.

A Department of Homeland Security official said it was a
"simple power outage" that only affected the Capitol not other

While the cause was not immediately known, there has been
extensive construction nearby for a new underground visitor's

Alarms went off on both sides of the Capitol at midday and
people were ordered to leave.

U.S. Capitol police directed people to move away from the
building and across the street, where they stood in a light
drizzle mingling with people protesting the immigration bill
under debate in the Senate.

(Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Susan Cornwell)