Blackouts plunge Brazil’s biggest cities into darkness

RIO DE JANEIRO — A massive power failure threw Brazil’s two largest cities into darkness tonight along with other parts of Latin America’s largest nation, affecting millions of people.

Officials did not immediately comment on the cause of the blackouts, but Brazilian media reports said there were unspecified problems at the huge Itaipu hydroelectric dam that straddles Brazil’s border with Paraguay.

The problems at the dam caused a loss of 17,000 megawatts of power, resulting in outages in large parts of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and other cities in several states, according to the G1 Web site of Globo TV.

The blackouts came three days after the CBS news program “60 Minutes” reported that several past Brazilian power outages were caused by hackers. Brazilian officials played down the report.

Brazil’s official Agencia Brasil news agency said today’s outage started about 10:20 p.m. local time, snarling streets in Rio after traffic lights stopped working. Subway service was knocked out in both Rio and Sao Paulo.

Utility companies that provide electricity to the two cities did not immediately offer explanations for why the power went off or when it would be restored, Agencia Brasil said.

Sao Paulo is South America’s largest city, with 12 million residents. Rio has 6 million citizens. But the metropolitan areas of both cities are much larger.

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