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Major Blackout Plunges Brazil into Darkness

Posted by edro on November 11, 2009

Another Warning Shot by Nature

Power failure in Brazil plunges its two largest cities into darkness

Tens of millions of people sat at home by candlelight as police urged then not to venture outside to prevent an upsurge in street crime.

A major power failure brought chaos to Brazil’s two largest cities,  Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, for several hours starting at 22:00local time (22:00 UTC).

Street lighting, stop lights, elevators, metro system and everything else that depended on electricity stopped functioning, exposing human vulnerability to electrical power loss.

brazil
A map of Brazil. Source: US govt.

Thousands of passengers were stranded as the metro railway systems in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo shut down.  Sao Paulo is home to nearly 20 million people, and Rio to another 15 million.

Tens of thousands of passengers had to walk along the underground tracks to reach stations, where buses provided an emergency service.

To prevent an upsurge in street crime, extra police were put on the streets, and residents in Sao Paulo and Rio were urged not to venture outside their homes.

The power failure was most likely caused by a major fault at the giant Itaipu hydroelectric dam, where a loss of up to 20,000 megawatts was reported after the distribution system was shut down by a storm.

itaipu 2
Itaipu hydroelectric dam, Paraguay/Brazil. The world’s largest hydroelectric facility. Credit: Itaipu Binacional.

The hydroelectric generator at Itaipu dam, which supplies up to 22 percent of Brazil’s electricity, simply lost its entire output for several hours,  affecting at least 9 of Brazil’s 27 states.

Paraguay [population: 6.5 million,] which also relies on the Itaipu dam for 90% of its electricity, plunged  into darkness for about 15 minutes.

[Note: Brazil has a population of about 192 million.]

Soon, the US, EU countries, China, Japan … could experience similar disruptions…

See also: Murphy’s law is void of a time vector!

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