As lights came back on across South America after a massive blackout hit tens of millions people, officials were still mainly in the dark about what caused the crash of the interconnected system and started examining the damage from the unforeseen disaster.
President of Argentina, Mauricio Macri, pledged a thorough inquiry into what he called an “unprecedented” outage, one that posed concerns about faults in the power system of South America, connecting many of the largest countries in the region.
Energy officials said the investigation results would be available in 10 to 15 days, and they could not promptly provide details on the economic impact of the outage that occurred on a Sunday and a day before a national holiday in Argentina.
Argentine Secretary of Energy Gustavo Lopetegui said the blackout started with a failure in the “interconnection system” of the country, adding that it also happens in other countries. But he said there was later a chain of events that caused a total disruption.
“This is an extraordinary event that should have never happened,” he told a news conference. “It’s very serious. We can’t leave the whole country all of a sudden without electricity.” He did not discount the possibility of a cyberattack, but said it was unlikely.
The collapse started at approximately 7 am. Sunday, with 44 million inhabitants of Argentina and neighboring Uruguay residents and some parts of Paraguay waking up in the dark.
Public transport in Buenos Aires stopped while telephone and internet connections were interrupted, water supplies were cut off and stores were forced to close. Patients based on home medical equipment were encouraged to go to generator powered clinics.
The blackout posed concerns on the region’s grid’s faults. Although this time Brazil was spared, a comparable outage in the region’s biggest nation left over 60 million in the dark in 2009, just as the officials struggled to increase trust in their infrastructure before the 2014 World Cup soccer and the 2016 Olympics.
Sunday’s power failure in South America occurs three months after Venezuela experienced its worst power outage due to the absence of electricity that endangered patients in hospitals.
Major outages have also struck other areas of the globe. Bertero said in 2003 about 50 million individuals in the U.S. and some provinces in Canada were impacted by a blackout, and about as many were struck in Italy that same year.
Many Argentine and Uruguay citizens took photos of their towns in the dark to social media. Others criticized the energy businesses or the state or merely lamented the disruption of their plans.
Several provinces in Argentina had governor elections on Sunday, and voters used their phone screens and built-in flashlights to illuminate their ballots.