Power back on in Ecuador after massive outage blamed on transmission failure

By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO (Reuters) - Power was nearly fully restored in Ecuador on Wednesday afternoon, after a nationwide electricity outage struck residential users, hospitals as well as the capital's subway system, a failure officials blamed on faulty transmission lines.

Public Works Minister Roberto Luque said in a post on X that 95% of service had been restored by late Wednesday afternoon.

The outage left the nation of some 18 million in the dark, as the minister also singled out insufficient maintenance as a contributing factor.

"What happened today is just more proof of the energy crisis we're dealing with," he said, ticking off recent problems caused by insufficient power generation that has led to unscheduled service cuts.

Luque, who also serves as acting energy minister, stressed that Wednesday's outage was due to a lack of investment in transmission that could have been avoided.

Luque had earlier in the day pinned the blame on a transmission line failure that caused "a cascade disconnection."

In April, Ecuadorean President Daniel Noboa declared an energy emergency and announced planned electricity cuts.

Wednesday's outage caused dangerous driving conditions for scores of motorists, as traffic lights ceased working. Operations of Quito's subway were also interrupted for several hours.

While the South American country has struggled with a drought affecting hydro-electricity power generation, heavy rains over the weekend forced authorities to take three hydroelectric plants offline.

The weekend rains provoked a landslide that killed at least 17 people and left dozens injured. The disaster also prompted Ecuador's private OCP oil pipeline to suspend operations and declare force majeure.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Editing by Anthony Esposito, Leslie Adler and Sandra Maler)