Wide swath of Brazil hit by blackout

Wide swath of Brazil hit by blackout

Electric equipment that caught fire between two substations caused a blackout in nine states of northeastern Brazil as well as in the capital city of Brasilia and numerous municipalities of two northern states, officials said Friday.

The power outage affected close to 53 million inhabitants in the nine northeastern states, a region that is home to almost a fourth of the Brazilian population.

The problem extended to the Federal District of Brasilia and to certain municipalities in the states of Para and Tocantins.

It was the second time in the last 35 days that the same regions have been hit by a power outage, and the authorities, who as yet have not completely determined the causes of the power cut Sep 22, quickly blamed the latest blackout on a fire.

Spokespersons of the National Electric System Operator, or ONS, said that the outage before dawn Friday was caused by an electrical equipment fire between the substations of Colinas, in Tocantins state, and Imperatriz, in the state of Maranhao.

These two electrical substations are strategic points in the system that interconnects the electric grids of Brazil's northern and northeastern regions, where most of the country's electricity is generated.

According to ONS, the fire occurred shortly before midnight Thursday and the problem was fixed by about 1.30 a.m. Friday, when technicians were able to reestablish current over the principal power lines where service had been cut off.

This latest blackout comes less than two years before the country hosts the 2014 soccer World Cup and less than four years before Rio de Janeiro welcomes athletes from around the world for the 2016 Summer Olympics.