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Cuba: Blackout Leaves 5 Million People in the Dark

The Cuban Electrical Union attributed [es] the problem with the electricity service that left five million people (Cuba's population: 11 million people) in the dark from Pinar del Río to Camagüey, including the Cuban capital, Havana, for many hours starting at 8pm on September 9, 2012, to ”an interruption in the 220,000 volt line of transmission between Ciego de Ávila and Santa Clara.”

The message, dated after 10pm on September 9, wasn't published in the Cuban state media until after midnight, when the weekly Trabajadores noted [es] on its web site that they were still investigating the cause of the failure.

Various Twitter users residing in Cuba used the battery life they still had on their laptops and their dial-up connections to report on what was happening using the hashtag #apagonazo [es]:

@CubanitoenCuba: Estoy con la batería de mi laptop, veré cuanto me durará #Cuba

@CubanitoenCuba: I am using the battery on my laptop, I'll see how long it lasts #Cuba

@maritovoz: #Cuba Aunque en VC (Villa Clara) ahora hay corriente por grupos electrógenos #Apagonazo sigue

@maritovoz: #Cuba Although in VC (Villa Clara) there is now a current provided by groups of generators #Apagonazo continues

@CubanitoenCuba: Poco a poco, se priorizan los hospitales, en Regla, Marianao, y cotorro ya tienen electricidad #Cuba

@CubanitoenCuba: Little by little they are prioritizing hospitals en Regla, Marianao and Cotorro that now have electricity #Cuba

@yohandry8787: Durante estas largas horas los vecinos nos reunimos en los portales, azoteas, donde quiera que corriera aire. El calor era agobiante. #Cuba

@yohandry8787: During these long hours we neighbors have gotten together in the doorways, roofs and wherever else air is blowing. The heat was oppressive. #Cuba
Apagonazo en Cuba. Foto: JLB. Reproducida con autorización.

Black out in Cuba. Photo: JLB. Reproduced with authorization.

After midnight, Yohandry's blog published [es]:

El apagón de todo el occidente de Cuba me sorprendió en Guanabacoa, por lo que tuve que atravesar una buena parte de La Habana para llegar hasta el municipio Playa, lugar donde resido. En los dos ómnibus que tomé,  la gente hablaba de una importante avería que había dejado a casi todo el país sin electricidad. En ningún momento noté pánico, al contrario, vi a las personas colaborando con la cola, para que pudieran montar en los ómnibus la mayor cantidad de pasajeros.

The black out in all of western Cuba surprised me in Guanabacoa , so I had to cross the greater part of Havana to arrive in the city of La Playa where I live. In the two buses that I took, people spoke of a serious breakdown that had left almost the entire country without electricity. I did not notice any panic at any moment, on the contrary, I saw people helping each other to get as many passengers on the bus as possible.

Other Twitter users gave their impressions on the morning of September 10th:

@salvatore300: #Cuba En medio del apagón lo más q hubo fueron chistes-dominó-kinqué #besosdecontrabando .etc en fin q recordé el #PeríodoEspecial

@salvatore300#Cuba In the middle of the blackout the most that there was were jokes-dominos-kinqué #besosdecontrabando [es] etc in the end it reminded me of the #SpecialPeriod

@libiamiranda: Anoche pude ver las estrellas en todo su esplendor desde la ciudad

@libiamiranda: Last night I could see the stars in all their splendor from the city.

From the the official web site of Cubadebate some users question [es] the lack of agility of information from the state media:

De verdad no entiendo por qué hay que informar ahora al amanecer de la interrupción cuando media isla quedó apagada y no se recibió información alguna por las emisoras radiales. Pienso que esto es un tema que requiere atención, pues no tenemos un sistema informativo que dé noticias puntuales de estas cosas que tanto nos afectan.

Truthfully I don't understand why they must report now at the dawn of the interruption when half the island remained blacked out and didn't receive any information from the radio stations. I think that this is an issue that requires attention because we don't have an information system that provides punctual information about these things that affect us so greatly.
Silvio Rodríguez in concert in Alamar during the blackout. Foto: Iván Soca. Republished under CC License.

Silvio Rodríguez in concert in Alamar during the blackout. Foto: Iván Soca. Republished under CC License.

Several netizens also noted that the pre-scheduled concert in the town of Alamar, east of the capital, of the important Cuban singer songwriter Silvio Rodriguez was not suspended. On his Facebook page, Iván Soca recounts [es]:

Todo fue bien hasta las 8 de la noche, solo que por primera vez se retrasaba la llegada de la planta eléctrica que se utiliza para alimentar el sonido; (y cuando digo primera vez es de verdad, los conciertos de Silvio son los más puntuales que he visto nunca jamás) Pero todo fue mejor desde el momento en que un “apagón” de proporciones descomunales – que apagó casi la mitad de la isla por varias horas – hizo que se replanteara el encuentro que resulto ser el más intenso de todos. La cita marcaba además el segundo aniversario de la incursión de Silvio Rodríguez en los Barrios de La Habana desde aquella primera vez en La Corbata, además de que tenía como invitados a los amigos de la Trop@ cósmica, un grupo de internautas que una vez, hace ya un tiempo comenzaron a seguir al trovador a través de la naciente red de redes… Y hubo concierto sin electricidad, y qué intenso!!!!

All went well until 8 o'clock at night, for the first time the arrival of the power plant that is used to power the sound was delayed (and when I say the first time it is really, Silvio's concerts are the most punctual I have ever seen). But all improved at the moment a “blackout” of massive proportions – that left nearly half of the island for several hours without electricity – caused the event to be rescheduled, which made the concert the most intense of all. The event also marked the second anniversary of Silvio Rodríguez's concerts in Havana neighborhoods since that first time in La Corbata, and the invited band was the Trop@ Cósmica, a group of netizens who some time ago began to follow the troubadour through the emerging network of networks… And it was a concert without electricity, and how intense!!

According to the daily newspaper based in Miami, The New Herald:

Aunque los cortes en el suministro eléctrico son habituales en la isla caribeña, no se recuerda uno de semejante magnitud y duración desde hace años. En agosto de 2006, un apagón afectó al occidente del país tras la rotura de un conductor que se debió colocar por la caída de dos torres que había sufrido el robo de partes de su armazón y dejaron el cable dañado.

Sin embargo, la interrupción duró entonces apenas tres horas y se produjo a primera hora de la mañana. En los últimos lustros, sobre todo tras la caída del bloque soviético, que era el principal proveedor de petróleo del país, los cubanos sufrieron periodos prolongados sin luz eléctrica y todavía hoy son frecuentes los apagones, aunque suelen ser breves y casi nunca generalizados como este último.

Although power outages are common in the Caribbean island, we do not remember one of this magnitude and duration in years. In August 2006, a blackout affected the western part of the country after a cable conductor failed. The cable was there because of the theft of parts of the frames of two towers, which left the cable damaged.

However, the interruption lasted three hours and occurred only early in the morning. In recent decades, especially after the fall of the Soviet bloc, which was the main supplier of oil to the country, Cubans suffered long periods without electricity, and still blackouts are frequent, but usually brief and rarely widespread as this most recent one.

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