Power outage blacks out Argentina and Uruguay

Argentina and Uruguay were hit by a massive blackout on Sunday which affected more than 40m people in one of the region’s worst ever power outages.

By midday local time, power was gradually returning after Argentina’s interconnection system “collapsed” at 7.07am, according to the country’s energy secretariat.

Two high voltage power lines running south from the Yacyreta hydroelectric dam on Argentina’s border with Paraguay reportedly went down simultaneously and triggered the outage.

The blackout coincided with several regional elections in Argentina on a day of heavy rains across much of the country. It paralysed public transport and brought many businesses to a standstill.

The incident exposed the vulnerabilities of Argentina’s electricity infrastructure, which suffered years of under-investment after utility tariffs were frozen in the wake of an economic crisis in 2001-2002.

Smaller scale blackouts became a regular feature of life, although the situation began to improve gradually after the government of President Mauricio Macri started to raise electricity tariffs three years ago.

Uruguayan energy company UTE tweeted that the system was being reinstated from scratch.

“There are already coastal cities with service and work continues toward general restoration,” it said.

The episode was compared to a major blackout in Brazil in 2009, when the Itaipu hydroelectric dam on its border with Paraguay left tens of millions of people without electricity.

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