Argentine President Mauricio Macri called it an "unprecedented" failure in the countries' interconnected power grid.

By Ian Horswill

Posted on June 17, 2019

A massive blackout left tens of millions of people without electricity throughout Argentina and Uruguay, and parts of Paraguay, Chile and Brazil.

The Argentine president called it an “unprecedented” failure in the countries’ interconnected power grid.

Argentina’s power system “collapsed” this morning around 7am local time, according to a statement by the Argentine Secretariat of Energy. The grid failure in Argentina affected power in all of Uruguay as well. Meanwhile, social media users in Paraguay, Chile and Brazil reported they too were experiencing a blackout.

Authorities were working frantically to restore power, but 10 hours after the country went dark, a third of Argentina’s 44 million people were still without electricity and the cause of the outage remained unclear.

As the sun rose over the darkened country, Argentine voters were forced to cast ballots by the light of cell phones in gubernatorial elections. Public transportation was halted, shops closed and patients dependent on home medical equipment were urged to go to hospitals with generators.

“This is an unprecedented case that will be investigated thoroughly,” Argentine President Mauricio Macri said on Twitter.

“I was just on my way to eat with a friend, but we had to cancel everything. There’s no subway, nothing is working,” said Lucas Acosta, a 24-year-old Buenos Aires resident, reported CBS News. “What’s worse, today is Father’s Day. I’ve just talked to a neighbour and he told me his sons won’t be able to meet him.”

By mid-afternoon, power had been restored to most of Uruguay’s 3 million people. But in Argentina, only 65 per cent of the nation’s grid was back up and running as of 5pm local time, the national news agency Telam reported.

Energy Secretary Gustavo Lopetegui said workers were working to restore electricity nationwide by the end of the day.

“This is an extraordinary event that should have never happened,” he told a news conference. “It’s very serious.”

Argentina’s power grid is generally known for being in a state of disrepair, with substations and cables that were insufficiently upgraded as power rates remained largely frozen for years. The country’s energy secretary said the blackout occurred around 7am local time when a key interconnection system collapsed, but the causes were “being investigated and are not yet determined”.