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Thousands lose power after three substations targeted in Washington state, says sheriff

Dec 25 (Reuters) – Thousands of residents were without power near Tacoma, Wash., after three electrical substations were vandalized, local authorities said on Sunday, adding that it was not yet clear whether the Christmas Day incidents were linked .

The Pierce County Sheriff̵[ads1]7;s Department said robberies were reported at two substations belonging to Tacoma Public Utilities and another belonging to Puget Sound Energy. Deputies cited forced entry into the fenced area, with equipment vandalized but nothing taken from the scene, it said. More than 14,000 customers were affected.

“At this time, deputies are conducting the initial investigation. We do not have any suspects in custody. It is unknown if there are any motives or if this was a coordinated attack on the power systems,” the department said in a statement on its website.

Earlier this month, a North Carolina utility reported power outages from what local authorities said were orchestrated shootings that are now being investigated by federal law enforcement.

The FBI is also investigating shots fired near a power plant in South Carolina days later and whether the two incidents may be related, NBC News and other local media have reported.

Utilities across the country have been strained by a severe cold weather system that swept across the country this week, leaving more than 300,000 without power from the winter storm.

In eastern Piece County, about 2,700 people served by Tacoma Public Utilities remained affected Sunday afternoon after the first 7,300 residents lost power in the area, about 45 miles south of Seattle, Tacoma Public Utilities said in a post on Twitter.

“We are working as quickly and safely as possible to restore power,” it said, noting that the substations “were attacked” earlier on Sunday morning and that the incidents were reported to the police.

Representatives for Puget Sound Energy could not immediately be reached for comment.

Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Leslie Adler

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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