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PostSubject: Massive power blackout hits Brazil's major cities   Wed Nov 11, 2009 11:47 am

SAO PAULO: Several major Brazilian cities including the two largest, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, were plunged into darkness Tuesday, in a blackout initially attributed to problems at a hydroelectric dam.

The power outage hit at 10:15 pm (0015 GMT Wednesday) and spread to the states of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, including both their capitals.

The states of Minas Gerais and Espirito Santo, in the southeast, Mato Grosso do Sul, in the southwest, parts of the central state of Goias, as well as the federal district of Brasilia were also affected. The blackout reportedly affected large swathes of Brazil's major cities in those states as well.

Globo television said National Electric System Operator officials blamed the blackout on a domino effect in the country's power grid from a power failure at the Itaipu hydroelectric plant that Brazil shares with Paraguay.

That information could not be immediately verified.

In Sao Paulo and its suburbs, an agglomeration of 20 million inhabitants, streets were illuminated only by the lights of cars and from a few buildings that had their own generators.

Traffic lights were out, causing most motorists to nose carefully through intersections.

Taxis, normally numerous, were hard to flag down by stranded residents walking the suddenly darkened streets. Some of the drivers said they were wary of armed robbers taking advantage of the emergency.

Along Sao Paulo's main Paulista Avenue police and traffic wardens were deployed to ensure security and manage traffic.

The blackout occurred two days after US network CBS aired a report claiming massive power outages in Brazil in 2005 and 2007 were caused by cyber hackers attacking control systems.

Although Brazilian media were sceptical of that assessment, the US channel said those incidents should serve as a wake-up call to the United States, which a former chief of US national intelligence, Mike McConnell, warned could be about to take place.

The Brazilian news website Abril said the new blackout occurred because 17,000 megawatts - the amount required to power the city of Sao Paulo - suddenly dropped out of the national electricity grid, according to the National Electric System Operator.

Brazil's energy ministry was trying to find the cause of the incident.

- AFP/yb

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