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Aussies told to go chill out at malls

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MELBOURNE: Major energy users on Australia's east coast were shut down on Friday.

Residents were asked not to go home and cook or watch television to ease demand on the strained power supplies as an extreme heatwave moved from the desert interior to the coast.

The authorities were preparing to temporarily suspend power to selected areas of New South Wales (NSW) late yesterday to prevent an overload just days after 40,000 homes and businesses lost electricity in the state of South Australia.

NSW Energy Minister Don Harwin asked residents to consider reducing their energy usage after work.

"(You might) want to consider going to a movie, going out to a shopping centre, keeping the load low, every bit like that helps," Mr Harwin said.

A paper mill, water treatment operations and Australia's largest aluminium smelter were among those that halted operations to conserve energy, with many industrial users required to do so under their contracts.

Weather forecaster Olenka Duma said a build-up of heat in Australia's interior was being pushed east across NSW.

The mercury climbed to 40 deg C in parts of NSW and the Australian Capital Territory yesterday, while today is expected to set a record for the hottest February day on record.

It was too hot for people to go out, said Mr Ned Qutami, owner of six mobile ice cream bars in Sydney, the NSW state capital.

"I am not doing any business today, I am just sitting in the air-conditioning at home," he said.

"People at the beach are either in the water or heading home. No one is hanging around to eat ice cream." - REUTERS