Tuesday 16 July 2019

Mystery blackout cuts power to 44 million in South America

Outage: A shopkeeper waits for customers in candlelight in Buenos Aires. Photo: REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian
Outage: A shopkeeper waits for customers in candlelight in Buenos Aires. Photo: REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

Paul Byrne

A massive blackout left up to 44 million people without electricity in Argentina and Uruguay after a mystery failure in the neighbouring countries' interconnected power grid.

Authorities worked frantically to restore power as more than a third of Argentina's 40 million people were still in the dark yesterday evening.

Voters cast ballots by the light of mobile phones in gubernatorial elections in Argentina. Public transportation halted, shops closed and patients dependent on home medical equipment were urged to go to hospitals with generators.

"I was just on my way to eat with a friend, but we had to cancel everything. There's no subway, nothing is working," said Lucas Acosta, a 24-year-old Buenos Aires resident.

By early evening, power had been restored to most of Uruguay's three million people. But in Argentina, only about 65pc of the nation's grid was back up and running. Homes in southern Paraguay near the border with Argentina also lost electricity for a while.

Argentina's power grid is generally known for being in a state of disrepair, with substations and cables which were insufficiently upgraded as charges remained largely frozen for years.

The country's energy secretary said the blackout occurred around 7am local time when a key interconnection system collapsed, but the causes were "not yet determined".

Many residents of Argentina and Uruguay said the size of the outage was unprecedented in recent history.

"I've never seen something like this," said Silvio Ubermann, a taxi driver in the Argentine capital. "Never such a large blackout in the whole country."

Argentine energy company Edesur said the failure originated at an electricity transmission point between the power stations in Yacyretá and Salto Grande in the country's north-east.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News