Page last updated at 11:37 GMT, Monday, 15 March 2010

Chile plunged into darkness by power cut


A fundraising concert was in full swing when the outage happened

A massive power failure has plunged quake-hit Chile into darkness, stretching 2,000km (1,250 miles) and affecting up to 90% of the population.

In Santiago thousands were evacuated from the Metro and the failure affected a benefit concert for quake victims.

Power went out at 2050 (2350 GMT) on Sunday, when a key transformer failed, and began to return after an hour.

Chile's infrastructure was devastated by the quake on 27 February that killed about 500 and cost up to $30bn (£20bn).

The power cut is another reminder of the immense tasks facing President Sebastian Pinera, who was inaugurated last week.

Floodlight failure

The BBC's Gideon Long in Santiago says the power cut stretched from Taltal in the north to the island of Chiloe in the south, the equivalent of London to Athens.

The entire area hit by the earthquake, including the badly affected second city of Concepcion, was plunged into darkness.

As well as halting the benefit concert, the big Sunday night football match in Santiago was abandoned after the floodlights failed.

The operators of the electricity grid said the blackout was caused by the failure of a high-voltage transformer about 700km south of the capital.

Officials said the blackout was not directly related to the earthquake.

However, Energy Minister Ricardo Rainieri said Chile's power grid remained fragile and he called on people to restrict their energy consumption.

Electricity to about 90% of the country had been restored soon after midnight.

One nanny in Santiago, Claudia Morales, told Reuters news agency: "Everyone started to say aloud maybe there had been another quake. Everyone was really panicked."

After taking office last week, Mr Pinera said it would cost at least $30bn to rebuild the country, nearly 20% of Chilean GDP.

He said loans and budgetary savings would be used to rebuild infrastructure, homes and industry.

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Electric Light and Power Earthquake related blackout leaves Chile without power - 6 hrs ago
MSNBC Chile blackout leaves millions in dark - 27 hrs ago Power blackout hits Chile two weeks after quake - 27 hrs ago Huge blackout hits Chile - 29 hrs ago
Sky News Quake-Hit Chile Plunged Into Darkness - 31 hrs ago

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