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Large parts of Brazil plunged into darkness

November 11th, 2009

Sao Paulo fell prey to the blackout. Photo: Fernando Stankuns, flickr

Sấo Paulo on Tuesday night. Photo: Fernando Stankuns, flickr

Authorities are investigating the causes of a massive power cut, which reportedly blacked out areas in as many as 18 of Brazil’s 26 states, the federal district and neighbouring Paraguay late on Tuesday night.

So far, the finger has been pointed at everything from some sort of atmospheric phenomenon to an accident affecting one or more transmission points from the giant hydro-electric complex at Itaipu on the border with Paraguay.

Rio de Janeiro state was among the worst affected regions, according to Mining Minister Edison Lobão.

At 6am Itaipu’s generating stations were said to be working normally again.

A note from the plant’s operators said within 15 minutes of the power cut Paraguay’s network was already receiving electricity from Itaipu, underlining the possible causes as an external fault.

Itaipu, which has an installed capacity of 14,000 megawatts, supplies close to 20% of Brazil’s consumption and 87% of Paraguay’s needs.

The major power outage led to traffic chaos in cities such as Sấo Paulo with traffic lights out of action. As night became day, the city’s water companies struggled to get the system working again, leaving nearly 7 million people without supplies.

Power cuts back in 2001, when a lack of planning was blamed, have made the issue politically sensitive.

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