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Maduro blames Venezuela’s blackout on US sabotage

Maduro blames Venezuela’s blackout on US sabotage
  • PublishedMarch 9, 2019

Venezuela’s government struggled to cope Friday with a massive electricity blackout that paralyzed much of the country as President Nicolas Maduro blamed the chaos on US sabotage.

Even by the standards of crisis-weary Venezuelans, the power cut — which began late Thursday — was one of the longest and most widespread in memory, heightening tensions in Maduro’s power struggle with his US-backed rival, opposition leader Juan Guaido.

Maduro shut down offices and schools “in order to facilitate efforts for the recovery of electricity service in the country,” Vice President Delcy Rodriguez tweeted.

Power supply was gradually being restored to large areas of Caracas on Friday afternoon, as well as parts of Miranda state and Vargas, which contains the country’s international airport and main port.

However, it was short-lived as the lights went off again, extending the blackout beyond 24 hours.

As night fell, people banging saucepans could be heard around the capital: a form of popular protest often seen in South America.

Large lines formed at the few gas stations open as people fetched fuel for generators. Some took gas from their cars.

The power “came for one moment and went away again,” Antonio Belisario, who had been waiting around an hour for petrol, told AFP.

– ‘Total madness’ –

The outage had left most of the country in chaos, crippling day-to-day functioning of hospitals and other public services, according to local press reports.

Witnesses described scenes of chaos at several hospitals as people tried to move sick relatives in the dark to clinics with better emergency power facilities.

Marielsi Aray, a patient at the University Hospital in Caracas, died after her respirator stopped working.

“The doctors tried to help her by pumping manually, they did everything they could, but with no electricity, what were they to do?” asked Jose Lugo, her distraught uncle.

Generators at the JM de Rios children’s hospital in downtown Caracas failed to kick-in when the blackout hit, said Gilbert Altuvez, whose eight-year old boy is among the patients.

“The night was terrible. Without light. Total madness,” he said.

Emilse Arellano said urgent dialysis for her child had to be canceled Friday, after a night where staff worked in the light of cell phones.

“The children were very scared,” she told AFP.

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