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Transformer Fire Prompts Evacuation Of Courthouse At 100 Centre Street

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - An underground transformer fire caused the lights and the air conditioning to go out Friday at the main Manhattan Criminal Court building.

As CBS2's Steve Langford reported, authorities had to evacuate building at 100 Centre St., which also houses the Manhattan central booking facility.

The evacuations took place at around 12:45 p.m. Friday, and it was no easy feat.

The most critical task was getting the incarcerated out of the building without it turning into a jailbreak. A heavily-armed team from the NYPD stood guard out back as bus after bus from the Department of Correction was loaded up with prisoners behind the secure garage doors.

Some 300 inmates were led en masse from the courthouse in handcuffs daisy-chained together.

"I don't wait around," said courthouse worker Lucretia Dobson. "I learned from 9/11. I don't wait for nobody to escort me out. I leave."

The power went out shortly after noon because of the transformer fire, the FDNY said. Evacuees said it was dark inside, but no smoke was reported.

But the uncertainty prompted a swift exit.

"They didn't say anything. I didn't wait for the announcement -- just on my instinct, just go out," said evacuee Cathy Cheung.

The electrical fire was troubling enough, but the courthouse them had elevated carbon monoxide readings.

Jurors in one case were immediately sent to lunch and then awaited instructions outside.

"It was pretty smooth and easy. It was the best experience I've ever had serving jury duty," juror Christina Auricchio said with a laugh.

By the mid-afternoon, 100 Centre St. remained off limits as the courthouse awaited word on when the wheels of justice would once again grind. Court officials ultimately closed 100 Centre St. for the day, and Court operations were relocated for the day to 111 Centre St.

No injuries were reported.

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