South American Blackout

Tens of millions affected after outage hits Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay

Tens of millions of people lost power all across South America this past weekend as a massive blackout struck a large portion of the continent, beginning some time on June 15 or 16. At its peak, the outage cut power to at least 50 million people in five countries, but three were hit the hardest: Uruguay, Paraguay, and almost the entirety of Argentina, which is home to 44 million people.NED-0798-South-America-blackouts-map_ShSEcOwIQV

Areas of Chile and southern Brazil were affected too, to a lesser degree. Left aghast as a localized power outage occurred but wasn’t contained, residents are still wondering how something like this could happen.

The event spotlights uneasiness about the security and reliability of electrical grids everywhere. As early as Tuesday, any ripple effect of the outage had been halted, according to some reports, ushering in a fierce search for the cause. While some news outlets attributed the power failure to an electrical issue, but this week has seen plenty of alternative theories surface. A cyberattack has not yet been ruled out by Argentinian president Mauricio Macri.

CBS News reported that the blackout started somewhere in Argentina at approximately 7 A.M. on Sunday (6/16) and that power was “fully restored” by Sunday night. Other news outlets have said many are still without power as recently as Tuesday.  South America is a flashpoint for grid instability in 2019 due to the ongoing power issues in Venezuela (more on that in a second) and infrastructure debates in Brazil, which just so happened to have a massive outage that hit about 60 million of its residents back in 2009.

In Argentina, public transportation was halted, and gubernatorial elections were still held using portable light sources like cell phones. Many of the polling locations still (fortunately) used paper balloting systems, allowing this to be done. Officials from the country’s energy department publicly lamented the mistake; with Argentina’s Energy Secretary saying it “never should have happened”.

In Venezuela, meanwhile, generator sales are spiking due to supposedly unrelated blackouts that are assumed to be tied to the country’s civil unrest instead. Many living in cities like Maricaibo have said purchasing a generator is essential in the country because blackouts can happen at any time.


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