September 10, 2012

Power failure plunges western Cuba into darkness

Millions of Cubans were without electricity after a power failure struck much of the island.

One of the biggest power blackouts in recent years hit Havana and the western half of Cuba on Sunday, leaving the capital city of 2 million people in total darkness as government radio stations reported nothing on the outage or its cause.

Havana blogger Yoani Sanchez, who lives on the 14th story of an apartment building, said she has experienced many outages of Cuba’s notoriously unreliable electricity network, “but never anything this big.”

From her apartment, she can see virtually all of Havana in darkness, she added, with lights visible only in government buildings that apparently have their own power generators, she told El Nuevo Herald by phone.

Many residents of the capital city were heading to the seaside Malecón boulevard, hoping that the sea breezes would make up for the absence of working air conditioners or fans, Sanchez said.

Cuban government television was off the air and the state radio stations were not broadcasting any reports on the blackout or its cause. One station broadcast music and another a recipe for cooking fish medallions, Sanchez reported.

Most of the western half of Cuba was also blacked out, from Pinar del Rio province west of Havana to Villa Clara in the center, according to Cubans in Miami who spoke with relatives on the island.

There were some reports that power had been restored to parts of Villa Clara and Mayabeque provinces as of Sunday night, but Sanchez said that most of Mayabeque was still blacked out as of about 10 p.m.

Sanchez said that the power went out at 8:09 p.m., just as the evening television news program was starting.

The Associated Press bureau in Havana reported that power was out across a 24-mile-wide stretch from the city’s western residential neighborhoods, across the Centro and Old Havana districts and on to suburbs on the eastern side of the bay.

In Havana’s Vedado entertainment and business district, the only buildings with light were tourist hotels and upscale apartment towers, which have backup generators, according to the news service’s dispatch.

Brief outages also were reported in Santiago de Cuba, the island’s second-largest city, about 475 miles to the east of the capital, as well as the central city of Ciego de Avila, and the popular resort area of Varadero, according to the AP.

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