A massive power grid failure left all of Argentina and parts of Uruguay and Paraguay without electricity, affecting around 50 million people. Power was restored to a third of Argentina by the afternoon.
A problem in the energy network left Argentina cut off from power at 7:06 a.m. local time (10:06 UTC). By mid-afternoon nearly half of Argentina’s 44 million people were still in the dark.
The outage also affected supplies to neighboring Uruguay and Paraguay.
Edesur, a major provider to the two nations, confirmed the outage in a tweet.
“A massive failure in the electrical interconnection system left all of Argentina and Uruguay without power,” said Edesur. Company spokeswoman Alejandra Martinez described the power outage as historic, saying “nothing like this has ever happened.”
The Argentine company’s “normalization process,” which was launched shortly after the blackout, has been ongoing for several hours, but as of 3:30 p.m. local time (18:30 UTC) only 56% of the nation’s grid was back up and running.
Authorities are still investigating the cause of the outage, but initial assessments suggest a “flaw” in the system. An independent energy expert in Argentina said the power grid’s collapse was related to systemic operational and design errors.
“A localized failure like the one that occurred should be isolated by the same system,” said the president of Argentina’s Center for the Study of Energy Regulatory Activity, Raul Bertero. “The problem is known and technology and studies (exist) to avoid it.”
Argentine state oil company YPF reported that all of the plants at its La Plata refinery had been shut down following the outage.
Uruguay relies on Argentina — the third-largest energy supplier in Latin America — for a significant portion of its energy needs, although investments in renewable energies, such as wind and solar, have allowed it to partially wean itself from its southern neighbor.
All three countries are located in the Southern Hemisphere, which is currently experiencing winter conditions.