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Power mostly restored in Ecuador after nationwide outage

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FILE - A saleswoman waits for customers at her stand during a power cut, in Quito, Ecuador, April 18, 2024. The entire country lost power on June 19, 2024, for periods of time due to production problems.
FILE - A saleswoman waits for customers at her stand during a power cut, in Quito, Ecuador, April 18, 2024. The entire country lost power on June 19, 2024, for periods of time due to production problems.

Ecuador suffered a nationwide blackout for several hours on Wednesday as the electrical grid failed, with metro services, traffic lights and other critical services crippled.

The blackout hit abruptly just after 3 p.m. local time, surprising subway riders in the capital, Quito, as trains came to a halt and hundreds of people were evacuated.

Some were forced to walk long distances through dark metro tunnels until they found an exit.

Three hours after the stoppage hit, Energy Minister Roberto Luque said on X that 95% of the service had been restored nationwide.

Earlier, he had announced a "breakdown in the transmission line, which caused a chain of disconnections" leading to a countrywide failure.

"For years there has been a lack of investment in these systems and electrical grids and today we are suffering the consequences," Luque said.

Traffic lights in Quito went on the blink and police manned intersections to maintain some semblance of order in the city of 3 million people.

Within about an hour, power started returning gradually in the capital.

"The incident must have been major because it even knocked out power to the metro, which has its own separate system," Quito Mayor Pabel Munoz said on X.

He had ordered the deployment of special teams to help anyone who may be trapped, prevent accidents and "take care of public spaces."

Chaos also hit the Pacific port city of Guayaquil, according to an AFP correspondent. People found themselves stranded in elevators in office and residential buildings, and the public water company urged the population to stock up just in case.

Street cars in the southern city of Cuenca stopped running. And in Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas, in the center of the South American country, the situation was similar, and traffic agents had their hands full.

Ecuador suffered rolling blackouts in April as a major drought left key hydroelectric reservoirs nearly depleted, and Colombia halted the exportation of electricity to its neighbor amid its own dry spell.

Ecuadorans had to contend with planned cuts of up to 13 hours at a time.

The situation returned to normal when the rainy season arrived and the country suspended electricity rationing in May.

Ninety-two percent of the country's electricity comes from hydroelectric plants.

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