Forest fire blacks out downtown Caracas' work day

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Associated Press

Posted on March 25, 2014 at 7:32 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 25 at 9:03 PM

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A forest fire knocked out electricity in parts of Venezuela's capital for most of Tuesday.

The blackout paralyzed subway stations, forced workplaces to close and snarled traffic. Downtown, workers killed time in front of their office buildings while they waited for power to return even as officials' midday deadline to solve the problem passed.

Power was not completely restored until dusk.

The blackout started late Monday after a fire destroyed transmission lines, Electricity Minister Jesse Chacon said. Officials believe the fire was set intentionally, in part because it began at 10 p.m., not in the heat of the afternoon like most wildfires.

The fire was still raging Tuesday in the dry brush of Waraira Repano National Park, which is a half-hour drive north of downtown Caracas.

"We are very sorry for the inconvenience, but that is what happens when these fires, apparently started on purpose, affect a public service," Chacon said.

The socialist country suffered major blackouts in 2012 and 2013. The administration blamed the power outages on sabotage, while opponents said they were the result of government incompetence.

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