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Argentina investigates reasons behind 'unprecedented' power outage

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BUENOS AIRES -- Argentinian authorities are trying to clarify the reasons for a massive blackout that left about 50 million people in South America without electricity.

The malfunction in a network serving both Argentina and Uruguay left the two countries almost completely without power and also affected parts of Paraguay, Chile and Brazil on Sunday.

Electricity has been almost completely restored in Argentina and Uruguay after an outage of up to 15 hours, suppliers in both countries said late Sunday.

"This had never happened in the history of Argentina," Energy Secretary Gustavo Lopetegui said on Monday.

He said there had been excessive voltage in a transmission line linking the hydropower plants Yacyreta and Salto Grande with the national grid, following which the supply system was automatically switched off.

Such automatic shutdowns in case of voltage fluctuations are common, but should remain localized, the minister said. "The problem and the question is, why did a system that is designed to isolate the affected section not do so?" he asked.

"It is an unprecedented case, which will be thoroughly investigated," President Mauricio Macri tweeted on Sunday.


Lopetegui said there was "zero" chance of such a power outage occurring again. "This is something out of the ordinary. It is something very serious which should not have happened, which must not happen."

It was expected to take about two weeks to determine the causes of the blackout, which prevented trains and traffic lights from functioning and reduced supplies of drinking water. Businesses remained closed and hospitals relied on generators.

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