Almost the entirety of the nations of Argentina and Uruguay, were “completely without power” following a “massive failure” in an electrical system on Sunday, Bloomberg and CNN reported, with parts of Paraguay, Chile and southern Brazil seeing outages as well [see update below]. The Associated Press estimated over 44 million people lost power.
Power has already been restored in some areas, such as Chile and parts of south and western Uruguay, CNN wrote, but many other areas are expected to have blackouts stretching throughout the day. Buenos Aires-based utility Edesur removed Paraguay and Uruguay from a list of countries totally without electricity, but it wasn’t clear how much of the grid in those nations was restored, CNN added:
In a statement on its website, Edesur said a “collapse” in its system occurred around 7 a.m. (6 a.m. ET).
The outage “is the first generalized blackout that Argentina has had in its history,” Edesur spokesman Alejandra Martínez told CNN affiliate TN.
Edesur is prioritizing any customer who depends on electricity for health reasons, it said, but because the power outage is so serious, anyone experiencing problems should go to a medical center.
Edesur is investigating the cause of the incident, but it told CNN that part of the Argentine Interconnection System at Yacyretá Dam on the Paraná River failed “without human intervention” early Sunday morning, resulting in an automatic shutdown. According to the New York Times, Argentina was hit by heavy rain this weekend and Uruguay’s state-owned utility, UTE, had said some systems damaged by the rain had yet to be repaired.
According to Bloomberg, the Economic Ministry of Argentina said in a statement that a quarter of the affected areas in the country had power restored by 12:15 p.m. local time, and the capital of Buenos Aires is slowly being brought back online. The blackout delayed early voting in gubernatorial elections in the provinces of Santa Fe, Formosa, and San Luis, Bloomberg added; the province of Tierra del Fuego far to the south was unaffected as it is not connected to the national grid. Service in Uruguay is being restored more rapidly, according to the AP.
“Everything came to a halt,” Buenos Aires resident Juan Borges told the BBC. “Elevators, water pumps, everything. We were left adrift... There are some elderly people on the eighth floor but nothing happened, because the power cut was short. If it had gone on for longer it would have been a whole different story.”
Update: 6/16/2019 at 8:55 p.m. ET: According to a report from Brazilian news network G1 (in Portuguese), the Operator of the National Electricity System (ONS) has denied that the blackouts extended to Brazil, contradicting earlier reporting by CNN.
Additionally, according to Bloomberg, Argentine Energy Secretary Gustavo Lopetegui told reporters on Sunday that while mundane causes such as a malfunction or humidity cannot be ruled out, the government still has not determined a cause and other possibilities such as a cyberattack.
“This morning, a fault in the coastal transmission system caused a power outage in the entire country, whose cause we cannot yet determine precisely,” President Mauricio Macri wrote on Twitter. “This is an unprecedented case that will be thoroughly investigated.”