By Doug Gray, Senior Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO – Rio, Sao Paulo and Recife were among the major cities affected by a blackout that hit nine states on Tuesday night as power problems that began over the weekend continue to affect the country.
After several Rio neighborhoods were affected in the early hours of Monday morning, with workers in Leblon, Ipanema and Flamengo waking to no power, stuck lifts and no traffic lights, Tuesday night’s massive power failure has caused some consternation among the population.
At around 10:20PM the city’s lights began to flicker wildly, and the cheers and boos that went up around the city to welcome the darkness were as much a sarcastic result of memories of Rio’s previous power supply problems as an indication of the average Carioca’s light-hearted approach to such troublesome situations that were once a regular occurrence.
Many in the busier neighborhoods such as Copacabana simply kicked back and enjoyed the chaos with a beer, whilst those watching the end of their beloved Vasco da Gama’s football match were less impressed. The predicament for those stuck on underground Metro trains or in rural parts of the state was significantly more serious, with panic reported on some of the city’s trains and confusion in the countryside with no information as to what had happened.
While the blame for Sunday’s disruption was laid squarely at the feet of the energy distribution company Light, such a large-scale blackout as Tuesday’s can only have been caused by a serious problem at the Itaipu Hydroelectric Plant – the second largest such plant in the world – which provides 20 percent of Brazil’s needs as well as parts of Paraguay, which were also hit.
Brazil’s energy minister was quick to scotch any assignment of blame in a hurried statement, instead suggesting that storms in the Itaipu area could have been responsible for bringing down major power lines. Located on the Parana River at the border between Brazil and Paraguay, the Itaipu area is braced for further storms over the next few days.
Normal service was resumed shortly after midnight, but the investigations into the cause of the problem will be keenly viewed across the world as thousands of vacationers begin to arrive for the holiday season, and World Cup and Olympic planners prepare for 2014 and 2016’s huge sporting events.