FBI joins investigation into attack on North Carolina power grid

<span>Photograph: Jonathan Drake/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Jonathan Drake/Reuters

The FBI is joining an investigation into what officials are calling a “targeted” attack on a North Carolina power grid that left about 40,000 residents without power on Saturday night.

Rumors on social media suggest that the attack was carried out to stop a local drag show. But officials have said a motive for the attack is unknown.

Two power stations were struck with gunfire on Saturday at about 7pm eastern time, causing tens of thousands of residents to go without electricity, the Associated Press reported. The power outage affected Moore county, which is about two hours outside Charlotte.

Authorities began investigating the outage as a crime after utility workers found signs of vandalism at the power grid, including evidence of gunfire at two substations, reported CNN.

The Moore county sheriff, Ronnie Fields, described the investigation into the power outage during a Sunday news conference, reporting that “someone opened fire on the substation, the same thing with the other one”.

Fields added that state investigators were also working with the FBI to find out who is responsible.

“The person, or persons, who did this knew exactly what they were doing,” Fields said.

But “no group has stepped up to acknowledge or accept that they’re the ones that done it”, Fields added, saying that officials are looking into different possibilities.

As of Monday morning, almost 30,000 people were still without power, according to Duke Energy, an energy provider for the area.

Local government officials have also acknowledged the attack.

The North Carolina governor, Roy Cooper, spoke about the power grid’s targeting on Twitter, writing: “An attack like this on critical infrastructure is a serious, intentional crime and I expect state and federal authorities to thoroughly investigate and bring those responsible to justice.”

North Carolina state senator Tom McInnis called the attack a “terrible act” that seemed to be malicious, the New York Times reported.

Authorities opened at least one shelter running on a power generator and imposed a nightly curfew after the outage, the Times added.

Schools in the county were also closed on Monday. It wasn’t immediately clear how long it would be before campuses reopened.