Massive power outage hits parts of Latin America

BUENOS AIRES (DPA): Large parts of Latin America were hit by a massive power outage early on Sunday, leaving millions without electricity and bringing public transport in Argentina’s capital to a halt.

Uruguayan energy company UTE said a malfunction at 7:06 am (1006 GMT) in the Argentinian network had left the entire country without service. Argentinian energy company Edesur confirmed all of Argentina and Uruguay had been affected by the outage. The blackout hit during Argentina’s winter, when the country relies on heating, and one witness named Sara told dpa it was cold on the Argentinian coast south of Buenos Aires at the time of the outage.

Traffic lights were not working, and it was also not possible to refuel cars. “It’s very strange, it’s never been this big,” the woman said.

The outage comes as Argentina is suffering from a severe economic crisis, and also as four provinces were staging local elections.

The blackout forced polling stations to delay opening times in three provinces, while voters in Argentina’s central Santa Fe province were forced to cast their ballot by candlelight, online news website Conclusion reported.

With a largely dilapidated infrastructure, Argentinians are used to frequent isolated power outages, but more typically in the summer when air conditioning systems overload the network.

Parts of Brazil and Chile were also affected by the blackout, Argentinian newspaper La Nacion reported, while outages in Paraguay were flagged by the BBC.

Uruguay and Argentina are connected via a joint Salto Grande power plant on the Uruguay River, 350 kilometres north of Buenos Aires, while Paraguay shares the Yacireta power plant on the Parana River with Argentina.

UTE later said service had been restored in parts of Uruguay’s coastal cities and the greater Montevideo area, while work was continuing for a full restoration.

Energy supplier Edesur said 450,000 of its 2.5 million customers in Argentina were back on the grid by midday, four hours after the outage started, with power running again in parts of the capital.

Argentina’s Ministry of Energy said authorities were investigating the exact cause of the failure.

The ministry said restoration of power had already begun in certain areas but that it would take hours for electricity to be fully restored.

Water supply in Argentina was also impacted by the outage, with local supplier Aguas Santafesinas urging people to restrict their use of drinking water to when absolutely essential.

Underground rail transport in the Argentinian capital was also brought to a standstill and Buenos Aires Metro Metrovias said all six of its lines were without service during the outage.

Locals in Uruguay and Argentina took to social media using the hashtag #SinLuz (no lights) after waking up without power.