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Ecuador struck by power outage, transmission line blamed

June 20, 2024

Ecuador suffered a nationwide power cut on Wednesday afternoon. The public works minister blamed lacking investment in recent years and said "today we are experiencing the consequences."

Two buses travel on a main road during a blackout in Quito June 19, 2024. Ecuador blacked out on June 19, due to failures in the supply network, according to Deputy Energy Minister Roberto Luque, affecting strategic services such as telecommunications and the Quito metro.
Strategic services like telecommunications and the metro in the capital Quito were affected by the sudden afternoon blackoutImage: Galo Paguay/AFP

Ecuador's roughly 18 million inhabitants were left briefly in the dark on Wednesday as a nationwide power outage struck the country. 

It halted the metro underground system in Quito and also affected traffic lights and other road signals. 

"Due to a general failure of the national interconnected electrical energy system, the operation of the Quito Metro is interrupted while the systems are restarted and verified," the metro system said on X.

A senior government official said a power transmission line failure was the cause of the outage.

"At 3:17 p.m. there was a failure of the Milagro-Zhoray Transmission Line that generated a 'blackout' to the national system," Public Works Minister Roberto Luque said online. 

Power started being gradually restored in Quito within around an hour of the failure.

Luque called the blackout a "true reflection of the energy crisis that we are experiencing."

File photo: Workers fix power lines damaged in the 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit Ecuador's Pacific coast, in Canoa, Ecuador, Thursday, April 21, 2016.
An Ecuadorean official said a fault on a transmission line in the south of the country caused a cascade failure of the networkImage: Rodrigo Abd/AP Photo/picture alliance

Minister blames investment shortfalls

Luque, who is also the acting energy minister, said lack of investment in power generation was why President Daniel Noboa declared an energy emergency and limits to usage in April. He went on to say that failure to invest adequately in transmission and infrastructure explained Wednesday's failure. 

"For years we have stopped investing in these systems and today we are experiencing the consequences," he said. 

As of 6:40 that evening, he said, 95% of national energy output was back online.

Ecuador's government has been struggling to contain gang violence in recent months, in May it declared a state of emergency in seven provinces.

msh/sms (AFP, AP, Reuters)