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Hours-long blackout affects millions in Ecuador after transmission line fails

6/19: CBS Morning News
6/19: CBS Morning News 20:08

A failure in an energy transmission line on Wednesday produced an unexpected blackout throughout Ecuador, the government said, days after announcing that there would be power outages in the country due to production problems.

Ecuador's Minister of Energy Roberto Luque said in a message posted on X, formerly Twitter, that the failure was reported by the country's National Electricity Operator and caused "a cascade disconnection," leaving the nation without energy service for several hours.

By Wednesday evening, power had been restored to 95% of the country, Luque wrote in an update on X, calling the blackout "a true reflection of the energy crisis" faced by Ecuador. "For years we have stopped investing in these systems and today we are experiencing the consequences," he added.

Two buses travel on a main road during a blackout in Quito, Ecuador, on June 19, 2024. GALO PAGUAY/AFP via Getty Images

In some parts of the country, the outage lasted 20 minutes, but media outlets and social media users reported that the problem continued for much longer in most cities.

Emilia Cevallos, a waitress in a restaurant north of the capital, Quito, said the blackout was surprising.

"We thought it was only in this sector, but when we left we realized that while some stores had connected generators, the majority did not have electricity," she said. "The traffic lights were not working either."

The Quito municipality said on X that traffic agents were mobilized to coordinate the flow of traffic. Quito Metro, the company that operates the city's subway system, said service was suspended as a result of the electrical failure.

Since last year, Ecuador has faced an electricity generation crisis that has led to rationing throughout the country. In April, the government of President Daniel Noboa began to ration electricity in the country's main cities as a drought linked to the El Niño weather pattern depleted reservoirs and limited output at hydroelectric plants that produce about 75% of the nation's power.

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