Cen­tral Amer­ica hit by mas­sive power out­ages

Huge power out­age plunged millions into dark­ness

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

A huge power out­age plunged millions of peo­ple across Cen­tral Amer­ica into dark­ness Satur­day, as au­thor­i­ties from Panama to Costa Rica to El Sal­vador scram­bled to re­store elec­tri­cal ser­vice. The black­out af­fected some five mil­lion peo­ple in Costa Rica alone, where of­fi­cials largely had man­aged to re­store ser­vice af­ter a na­tion­wide power out­age last­ing about five hours. Au­thor­i­ties pinned blame for the power out­ages on a downed Pana­ma­nian trans­mis­sion line that ad­versely af­fected the power sup­ply for much of the re­gion.

Coun­tries in the re­gion, from Gu­atemala to Panama, are con­nected by the same power grid, cov­er­ing an ex­panse of some 1,800 kilo­me­ters (1,100 miles). But that in­ter­con­nect­ed­ness means that the coun­tries of Cen­tral Amer­ica are vul­ner­a­ble when there are power grid mal­func­tions in any one. Chaos reigned in the Costa Ri­can cap­i­tal af­ter traf­fic lights ceased to func­tion, while the main air­port in San Jose had to run on backup power un­til the power sys­tem was up and run­ning again.

The black­out was the first ex­pe­ri­enced in Costa Rica, among the most de­vel­oped coun­tries in Latin Amer­ica, since 2001. Of­fi­cials said as many as two mil­lion peo­ple were left in the dark in Panama, with an un­de­ter­mined num­ber af­fected in Nicaragua and El Sal­vador. De­tails were not im­me­di­ately avail­able about how many peo­ple were af­fected by the black­out else­where in Cen­tral Amer­ica, or whether they had man­aged to get their power sys­tems back up and run­ning.

Of­fi­cials at the Costa Ri­can In­sti­tute for Elec­tric­ity said power was dis­rupted through­out the en­tire coun­try, but was re­stored in most places by 6:00 pm. “ICE is try­ing to di­ag­nose the prob­lem,” Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Mauri­cio Her­rera, said ear­lier Satur­day re­fer­ring to the of­fice by its Span­ish acro­nym. He said that work­ers suc­ceeded in restor­ing power to some ar­eas of Costa Rica. ICE said that the ori­gins of the black­out were outside of the coun­try and urged the pub­lic to re­main in­doors while they try to fix the prob­lem. In Panama, the ETESA govern­ment power author­ity said via Twit­ter that the na­tion had ex­pe­ri­enced just a “par­tial black­out” and that work­ers were try­ing to re­store power to the af­fected ar­eas. Much of the power was re­stored about three hours af­ter the black­out started, of­fi­cials said. The black­out in Panama oc­curred about 15 min­utes into a ma­jor speech de­liv­ered by Pres­i­dent Juan Car­los Varela to the coun­try’s leg­is­la­ture. Nicaragua for a time had to tap the grid in neigh­bor­ing Hon­duras to keep the lights on.— AFP

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