RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — A fire at the main electricity station in northern Brazil’s Amapá state has caused four days of blackouts, affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
The outage began on Nov. 3 after an explosion caused by a fire in the main energy substation from the Spanish-based transnational, Isolux Corsán. The fire occurred in the state’s capital Macapá and caused a blackout in 13 of the state’s 16 municipalities.
The Amazonian state of Amapá is located on the Brazilian border with Suriname and French Guiana and has a total of 850,000 residents. About 90 per cent of the population was affected by the first blackout that lasted four days and by another one which occurred on Nov. 17 and lasted four hours.
The Ministry of Mines and Energy created a crisis office and sent an entourage to Amapá. Governor Waldez Góes declared a 90-day state of emergency across the state on Nov. 6.
The energy crisis has led to protests against the government. Municipal elections scheduled for Nov. 15 were rescheduled for Dec. 13 and 27.
“We spent five consecutive days without electricity,” said Gabriel Yared, a writer from Macapá. “We lost our frozen food and ran out of running water for that entire period. The nights were hot and muggy, and we also suffered from the presence of mosquitoes.”
Yared, 20, has a delivery restaurant at home and has lost most of the refrigerated items from the stock during the blackout.
“The national media only reported what happened three days after we were in the dark, showing the lack of interest in the cities on the margins of the territory, which is where most of the national wealth is produced,” Yared said.
“Amapá has four hydroelectric plants, which produce three times the consumption of the population itself and feeds the electric grid of the whole country,” he said. “The media should have a greater interest in this (area) to pressure the federal government to act more effectively to solve the crisis.”
The power outage affected the state’s hydraulic system. There was a lack of running water. Without power, most internet and telephone services also stopped working.
Thainá Rodrigues, 25, an illustrator who lives in Macapá, said the financial damage wasn’t the only loss. She spent days without sleeping due to her anxiety during the blackout.
“The first five days, without electricity, without water, without any news… There was chaos all around the city. That’s when I realized how abandoned we are,” Rodrigues said.
Adriele Aragão, 24, a public servant from Macapá, had to buy ready-made meals because there was nowhere to store food.
“The government should have been prepared for this,” she said. “There was no backup, cops have also used violence to stop protests, and the energy rotation wasn’t fair. Wealthier neighbourhoods had more energy than poor areas.”