Earthquake related blackout leaves Chile without power

March 15, 2010 — A power outage left most of Chile blacked out for hours March 15, two weeks after a massive earthquake that killed hundreds and weakened infrastructure.

Electricity was restored quickly, but the failure of the main power grid was another test for President Sebastian Pinera, who took office last week.

The power cut rattled the nerves of Chileans still living with aftershocks following the deadly 8.8-magnitude quake on Feb. 27 that triggered tsunamis and tore up roads and towns, causing an estimated $20 billion to $30 billion in damage.

Chile gets about 60 percent of its power from hydroelectric generation, with about 20 percent from natural gas-fired generation and about 17 percent from coal-fired generation.

The outage affected millions of people and most of Chile’s main cities in a stretch of territory more than 1,200 miles long from north of the capital Santiago, to Puerto Montt in the south.

The quake-devastated city of Concepcion was among those plunged into darkness and some of the country’s key copper mines briefly halted production.

Soon after midnight, power had returned to around 90 percent of Chile, a long, narrow country that produces copper, fruit and wine and is one of the most developed in the region.

Energy Minister Ricardo Rainieri said the quake left Chile’s power grid fragile, and urged Chileans to limit energy consumption.


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