THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

60 million Brazilians left in dark

Weather blamed for massive outage

People ate by candlelight at Copacabana Beach in Rio De Janeiro yesterday after storms short-circuited transformers, plunging much of the country into darkness. People ate by candlelight at Copacabana Beach in Rio De Janeiro yesterday after storms short-circuited transformers, plunging much of the country into darkness. (Bradley Brooks/ Associated Press)
By Bradley Brooks
Associated Press / November 12, 2009

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RIO DE JANEIRO - Heavy rain, lightning, and strong winds caused blackouts that left 60 million people in the dark, officials said yesterday as they scrambled to restore confidence in the country’s infrastructure before soccer’s 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.

The weather made transformers on a vital high-voltage transmission line short-circuit, Brazil’s energy minister said. Two other transmission lines also went down as part of an automatic safety mechanism.

“The problem was exclusively with the transmission lines,’’ Energy Minister Edison Lobao said yesterday.

The blackout cut electricity to 18 of Brazil’s 26 states and left them without power for up to four hours Tuesday night. The federal district that includes the national capital of Brasilia was spared. About 7 million people also lost water service in Sao Paulo. All of neighboring Paraguay briefly lost power as well.

In Brazil’s largest cities of Rio and Sao Paulo, people were trapped in elevators, stranded on commuter trains, or stuck in sweltering apartments during unusually hot spring temperatures that have hit the 90s in recent days.

“I wonder how this could have happened and am worried about what it does to Brazil’s image, especially with the World Cup and Olympics coming up,’’ said Wesley Aragao, a 24-year-old sailor who waited out the blackout at his parents’ house in northern Rio. “Nobody likes to be left in the dark.’’