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Power has finally been restored to Venezuela, minister says

Posted at 11:02 PM, Mar 13, 2019

Venezuela's information minister has said that a huge power outage that has left most of the country dark for a week has been completely restored.

The power failure left many homes without running water and caused chaos in hospitals, as well as disrupting places of work and schools. At its worst, 19 of 23 states were affected, and the capital Caracas was blanketed by darkness.

Speaking at a press conference Wednesday, Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez said that "President Nicolas Maduro has decided to resume work activities throughout the country" on Thursday. He added, "School activities remain suspended for another 24 hours."

He urged people to unplug appliances and turn off lights. "Help us to help you," he said.

CNN teams on the ground said power has been restored in many parts of Caracas, but not everywhere.

A doctor from the non-profit organization Medicos por la Salud said on Wednesday that many hospitals across Venezuela were still experiencing intermittent power outages throughout the day. Hospitals in Valencia, Merida, and Maracaibo all reported hours-long outages, and are either relying on generators or transferring their patients to hospitals in neighboring towns.

The minister said 80% of country and 70% of Caracas now has drinking water.

Crowds of people who depend on electric pumps had resorted to filling bottles and containers from natural springs, drainpipes and dirty streams.

Meanwhile, the widespread power outage has left parts of the country vulnerable to vandalism and looting. Images showed stores in a shopping mall in the city of Maracaibo with their fronts smashed and shelves bare.

On Wednesday, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, "We are very concerned about the serious humanitarian impact that the power outage is having in Venezuela, as well as about reported incidents of looting and violence throughout the country."

Blame game

The Information Minister used to the press conference to accuse supporters of the opposition leader, and Venezuela's self-declared interim president, Juan Guaido, of trying to bring down the electrical grid by plugging in all their appliances.

He said military exercises have been "ordered this weekend to protect the electric grid."

On Monday, Maduro said the recovery from power outages will be "little by little" and blamed the United States for attacking the power structure, saying the "imperialist government of the United States ordered this attack." He offered no proof for the claim.

The US has attributed the outage to the Maduro regime's "incompetence."

Guaido told CNN's Patrick Oppmann in a weekend interview that the Maduro government's accusations of a US cyberattack were absurd. Venezuela's main power plant is full of aging, analog machinery not connected to any network, he said.

"We are in the middle of a catastrophe that is not the result of a hurricane, that is not the result of a tsunami," Guaido said. "It's the product of the inefficiency, the incapability, the corruption of a regime that doesn't care about the lives of Venezuelans."

Guaido said the private sector had lost at least $400 million from power outages.

Venezuela's National Assembly approved a request Monday from Guaido to respond to the widespread outages with a "national state of emergency." The decree will allow the National Assembly to seek international cooperation or foreign intervention.

Black water

Meanwhile, Venezuelans in the northern state of Carabobo turned on their water Wednesday to find it had turned black.

According to León Jurado, the Mayor of the San Diego municipality within Carabobo, the water issue was down to "human error" and not related to the power outage.

"My understanding is that at 5 a.m. we received the reports that the pumps stopped pumping, and what was in the tubes stayed in the tubes," Mayor Jurado said. "They are cleaning the pipes. At this moment, there is no water service."

Amid the difficulty of the week-long power outage across Venezuela, the incident adds to the problems many people already face getting access to clean drinking water in this state.