Brazil power cut traced to massive storm

An investigation was under way yesterday in Brazil into the causes of a giant electricity blackout that plunged cities from Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paolo into darkness on Tuesday night and for a short while shut down the entire grid in neighbouring Paraguay.

As many as 60 million people in Brazil were affected by the cuts, which involved 18 of the country's 26 states. Power had mostly been restored by dawn, officials reported. When the cuts first struck, passengers were forced to abandon halted underground trains in Sao Paolo, walking along tracks. In Rio, tourists fled hotels that became overheated without air conditioning.

Energy ministry officials said they had traced the problems to lines that connect the Brazilian and Paraguayan grids to a huge hydro-electric plant at the Itaipu dam on the border between the two countries. They said that lines and towers had been downed by a powerful electric storm.