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Huge Blackout in Brazil and Paraguay – November 11th, 2009

November 11th, 2009 Category: Image of the day, Rivers

Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay - November 10th, 2009

Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay - November 10th, 2009

A problem with the Itaipú hydroelectric power plant plunged Paraguay and large parts of central-western and south-eastern Brazil into darkness on Tuesday night, virtually paralyzing the two countries. Experts are debating whether or not lightning and heavy winds and rains from a large atmospheric disturbance were responsibile for the blackout.

Power was being restored to Brazilian cities early Wednesday, while it was restored to Paraguay about 20 minutes after the initial loss. The power failure knocked out electricity in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília, Belo Horizonte and almost 800 other cities in 10 Brazilian states. It it also forced the shutdown of major airports in Rio and São Paulo, as well as the São Paulo metro system.

Itaipú, the world’s largest operational hydroelectric power plant, straddles the border between Brazil and Paraguay. Representatives of Itaipu Binacional claim that the blackout was not caused by a problem with the hydroelectic power plant itself, but by a fault in the system that transmits electricity.

Brazilian government officials, including the Minister of Mines and Energy, originally blamed the blackout on a lightening bolt and/or strong winds and rains from a large atmospheric disturbance hitting a 750 kilovolt electrical transmission line between Ivaiporã (in the state of Paraná) and Tijuco Preto (state of São Paulo).

However, the Brazilian National Meteorology Institute (INMET) stated that the sky was heavily cloudy and prone to lightening strikes only between 1:00PM and 4:00PM, during which time this image was taken, and had cleared well before the start of the blackout at 10:10PM. Here the storm is visible covering the Itaipú Dam near the triple border between Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina around 1:40PM on Tuesday.

The Paraná River, on which the dam is located, runs southward out from under the clouds, then east into the sediment-filled Rio de la Plata estuary. The cities of Buenos Aires and Montevideo can be seen on the shores nearby. Upon opening the full image, more of Brazil and Paraguay are visible to the north, above the clouds.