Power Failure Grips Most Of Cuba In Stark Reminder Of Days Past

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Darkness descended over most of Cuba on Sunday, the result of a widespread power failure whose origin remains unknown.

Power was out from the city of Ciego de Avila in southeastern Cuba all the way to Havana, 250 miles northwest and beyond to the westernmost province of Pinar del Rio.

NBC.com was reporting power had begun returning around the island in many areas, but hadn’t yet in Havana, the Cuban capital that is the Communist country’s biggest city with 2.2 million people.

Cuban government television stations remained off the air, while state-run radio stations reported about neither the large power outage nor any potential causes.

Unconfirmed reports cited the failure of a generating plant in Cienfuegos on Cuba’s southern coast as the source the outage, but that had not been confirmed.

In Havana, street and traffic lights were out across the city, causing police officials to call in off-duty officers to direct snarled traffic.

Brief outages also were reported in Santiago de Cuba, the island’s second-largest city, about 475 miles to the east of the capital, as well as the central city of Ciego de Avila, and the popular resort area of Varadero.

Weather on the island remained clear and calm. No one at the state-owned electrical company could immediately be reached to explain the outage.

Blackouts are not uncommon in Cuba, due to its aging electrical system. But this one was more extensive than usual and reminded some of the 1990s when the country was short of energy and outages were a daily occurrence.

The shortages of the 1990s followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba’s top benefactor. The government called that era the “Special Period.”

“We have candles lit,” Rosanna Garza told NBC.com from her Havana home. “It’s more or less like the Special Period, except in those days, blackouts were so common we had lanterns with kerosene. We don’t have that now.”

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