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Argentina, Uruguay restoring electrical power after huge blackout

Juan Vargas, AFP | Downtown Buenos Aires on June 16, 2019, during a power cut.

Electricity services have been restored to more than 70 percent of Argentina and Uruguay following a massive blackout that left around 48 million people without power on Sunday, authorities said.

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At around 7:00 pm (2200 GMT), Argentina's Energy Ministry Gustavo Lopetegui said services had been restored to 77 percent of customers in the country. There are still outages in multiple provinces, while Tierra del Fuego, in the country's extreme south, was spared because it is not part of the national system.

In neighbouring Uruguay, the state power company UTE said power had returned to at least 88 percent of the country.

The cut, which happened just after 7:00 am, also affected Paraguay, which reported short, localized losses of power.

It was the first time a power cut had affected the entirety of both Argentina, with a population of more than 44 million, and Uruguay, which has 3.4 million inhabitants.

"These are failures that occur (even) with diligence. The amazing thing is the chain of events that took place to cause the total disconnection," Lopetegui told a press conference.

He said the outage took place "automatically to protect the system."

"We don't have any more information right now on how it occurred. We're not ruling out any possibility, but a cyber attack is not among the main alternatives being considered."

Hospitals, clinics on generators

Argentina's energy secretariat said the "interconnection system" had "collapsed," producing "a massive power cut" for which its generators had been unable to compensate, but that the causes had not been determined.

Sources from the official energy agency of Paraguay, which borders Argentina to the northeast, told AFP that cuts there had been "momentary."

A spokesperson for RGE, the biggest energy distributor in Brazil's southern Rio Grande do Sul state that borders both Argentina and Uruguay, said they'd had no reports of cuts.

Earlier in the day, power had returned to some sectors of Buenos Aires but the metro and trains were still halted.

Public hospitals and private clinics were running on generators.

"The only inconvenience is the elevators. We only have one working, but all services are operating without problems," said an employee at the Fernandez Hospital.

Candle-light voting

Argentines also went to the polls in several provinces on Sunday to elect governors, with some local media reporting voters cast ballots by candle light.

In Montevideo, some restaurants in the downtown area had power back by 11:00 am (1400 GMT).

More than an hour after the blackout, UTE said its system was being brought back "from zero."

Argentina and Uruguay have a common power grid centred on the bi-national Salto Grande dam, 450 kilometres (280 miles) north of Buenos Aires.

(AFP)

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