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Power Cut Hits All of Argentina and Uruguay, Affecting Tens of Millions

BUENOS AIRES — A widespread power failure early Sunday morning left a large section of South America, including all of Argentina and Uruguay, without power — and an energy company official called the blackout “unprecedented.”

Social media users said parts of Chile, Paraguay and southern Brazil were also affected, but an Argentine official said it could not be confirmed.

Argentina’s interconnection system “collapsed” at 7:07 a.m., cutting electricity in the entire country and affecting Uruguay, the Argentine Secretariat of Energy said in a statement.

“The causes have not been determined and are being investigated,” the statement added.

Edesur, an electricity company in Argentina, announced on Twitter about 7:50 a.m. that a “massive failure in the electrical interconnection system left all of Argentina and Uruguay without power.”

Uruguay’s energy supplier, U.T.E., also said on Twitter that a malfunction in the Argentine network before dawn had left the “entire national territory” without service.

Argentina has more than 44 million people, while Uruguay’s population is about 3.5 million.

“There is a complete blackout in Argentina,” said Alejandra Martínez, a spokeswoman for Edesur, which serves parts of the capital, Buenos Aires, and its suburbs and has more than 2.5 million customers.

Ms. Martínez described the blackout in Argentina as “unprecedented.” She added, “This is the first time something like this has happened across the entire country.”

The outage was caused by a failure in two separate 500,000 volt power lines in a corridor that takes power from the Yacyreta dam to Buenos Aires, according to a high-ranking government official. The cause of that failure remained unclear.

The Argentine official said at 10:30 a.m. local time that it would take four to five hours to restore service to the entire country.

The blackout occurred on a weekend when Buenos Aires and its suburbs have been hit by heavy rainfall.

Residents posted images of their dark towns and cities. An economist in Uruguay said on Twitter that radio outlets were reporting that 180,000 customers were without power in Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, and 45,000 in Canelones, a city to the north of the capital.

Subway trains were paralyzed, the Argentine news site Infobae reported, but flights appeared to be taking off and landing because airports were operating on generators.

Edesur was one of the first to alert the scale of the blackout, with Edenor, the other distributor servicing the Argentine capital and its suburbs, following suit with a Twitter post at 8:33 a.m.

Later Sunday morning, the Energy Secretariat of Argentina said that work to turn the power back on had begun in parts of the country, but that restoring the entire system “could take a few hours.”

In 2009, a huge power failure in Brazil involving the world’s largest operating hydroelectric plant caused widespread blackouts that affected tens of millions of people and exposed the vulnerability of the country’s electricity infrastructure.

That failure occurred at the Itaipú plant, which straddles the border between Brazil and Paraguay along the Paraná River and is a critical source of power for both nations.

Source: NYT > World

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