Ecuador has been hit by a nationwide blackout, leaving 17 million people in the dark

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Ecuadorian flag in Quito on September 30, 2013.



CNN

Ecuador was hit by an hour-long nationwide blackout on Wednesday, leaving 17 million people in the South American country without electricity.

The blackout – which affected hospitals, homes and a major subway system – was caused by maintenance and transmission problems in the country’s power system, officials said.

“The outages we had today are due to a lack of investment in maintenance, new transmission and protection of transmission infrastructure,” Public Infrastructure Minister Roberto Luque told a press conference on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday night, power had been restored to 95% of the country, the government said.

Ecuador has been struggling with an energy crisis for years. Ecuador’s most recent president, Daniel Noboa, declared an energy emergency in April and ordered an eight-hour blackout amid drought that has affected power generation.

In the capital, Quito, a CNN team saw two hospitals, including a children’s medical center, lose power during the blackout. Both hospitals were able to rely on electricity from their generators shortly after the cut began.

In Guayaquil, the country’s largest city, the blackout briefly affected two other hospitals. “The electricity is out, but we have our own (generators),” said a doctor at Guayaquil’s Luis Vernazza Hospital. CNN reached out to the country’s health ministry to ask if other hospitals were affected.

Guayaquil residents faced blackouts amid 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius) heat. “It’s unbearable, it’s so hot and humid, and we can’t use the air conditioner or the ventilator,” one resident told CNN.

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“Moreover, the water is not running,” the resident added.

Quito’s subway system was cut due to a power outage, with the capital’s mayor, Babel Muñoz, calling the outage “significant” despite the use of a “separated (electrical) system” affecting the subway.

After a similar blackout in 2004, Infrastructure Minister Luk said the blackout could have been avoided if Ecuador had undertaken an investment plan to “protect infrastructure both in terms of production (power) and transmission.”

Luk said Wednesday’s blackout was not related to the country’s energy crisis since last April.

“The outages we had in April were due to a lack of investment in new (power) generation and maintenance of the (power) we have,” Luk said.

This story has been updated with additional updates.

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