National blackout in Ecuador leaves 18m people without power

The blackout is understood to have been nationwide
The blackout is understood to have been nationwide - GETTY IMAGES

A nationwide electricity outage struck Ecuador on Wednesday, leaving the nation of some 18 million in the dark, including the capital’s subway system.

Power was finally restored to most of the country on Wednesday evening – but not before the mass outage impacted hospitals, homes and the transport network.

Public Works Minister Roberto Luque said in a post on X that 95 per cent of service had been restored.

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

People outside a metro station in Quito during the blackout
People outside a metro station in Quito during the blackout - AP

A Reuters witness said there was confusion on the streets of Quito, the capital, as traffic lights ceased working.

“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.

Mr 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.

He 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.

Mr Noboa ordered public and private sector staff to work a three-day week to save energy in response to unprecedented power outages.

Roberto Luque, centre, Ecuador's public works minister, said there was "no electricity at a national scale"
Roberto Luque, centre, Ecuador's public works minister, said there was "no electricity at a national scale" - @ROBERTOLUQUEN/X

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.