Forest fire causes power outage hits Venezuela

Forest fire causes power outage hits Venezuela

30 April 2008

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A power outage left wide swaths of Venezuela without electricity on Tuesday, including much of the capital.

The blackout was caused by a forest fire that overheated power lines in the central state of Guarico, the energy ministry said in a statement.

About half of Venezuela’s territory was affected by the outage, which started at about 4 p.m.

Power returned to downtown Caracas after about an hour and a half, then went out again and soon returned. Officials said power also was being re-established in other parts of the country.

The outage affected 13 of the country’s 24 states, Interior Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin said. He said Tuesday night that power was gradually being restored, saying “there’s no emergency.”

The blackout caused stoplights to stop functioning, aggravating traffic jams, and temporarily closed some subway stations in Caracas. Workers emerged from darkened buildings.

The transmission lines that overheated and failed were near the Guri hydroelectric dam in eastern Venezuela, said Gen. Hipolito Izquierdo, president of the National Electric Corp.

He told state television that the initial failure set off a chain reaction during peak power consumption hours on a hot day.

It was unclear if the outage had affected Venezuela’s oil industry.

The Caracas city government beefed up the police presence on the streets to reinforce security, Mayor Freddy Bernal said.

The long duration and widespread reach of the outage was unusual for Venezuela.

Miltha Escalona, a 37-year-old lawyer, said her car was stuck in an electricity-operated parking garage and nearby cash machines were down.

“I had to borrow money to get to the daycare to pick up my son,” she said.

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