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Investigation begins into cause of massive blackout in South America

The Hill logo The Hill 6/17/2019 Marina Pitofsky
a group of people sitting at a table in front of a store: Investigation begins into cause of massive blackout in South America © Getty Images Investigation begins into cause of massive blackout in South America

After widespread power outages across Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay on Sunday, officials announced an investigation into the interconnected power grid that serves all three countries.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri called the outage "unprecedented," and he promised a thorough investigation, The Associated Press reported. The blackout began at 7 a.m. Sunday, affecting 44 million Argentinians and leaving neighboring Uruguay and Paraguay unable to access power until Sunday night.

Phone and internet communications were interrupted across the countries, and some water supplies were also cut off. Authorities told people who use in-home medical equipment to go to hospitals with generators, and the disarray also stopped public transit in Buenos Aires.

Argentina's energy secretary, Gustavo Lopetegui, also blamed a failure within the shared grid. He called the possibility of a cyberattack "unlikely," but he did not rule it out.

"This is an extraordinary event that should have never happened," Lopetegui told reporters, the AP reported. "It's very serious. We can't leave the whole country all of a sudden without electricity."

Energy officials said results of the investigation would be available in 10 to 15 days. A spokesperson for a local utility company, Edesur, which controls 20 percent of the Argentine power market, said the outage was "the first generalized blackout that Argentina has had in its history," CNN reported.

But the blackout raised broader concerns about the region's preparedness to handle power demands across countries. Power rates did not increase for years in Argentina, according to the AP, leaving few funds to repair and update the power grid.

This blackout also comes less than three months after Venezuela suffered multiple blackouts that sparked political backlash against the United States and infighting between President Nicolás Maduro's regime and the country's national assembly.

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