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Venezuela's blackout: Chaos spreads in Venezuela after a failure at the Guri hydropower plant

About the blog

Águeda García de Durango
Editor-in-Chief of iAgua and Smart Water Magazine. Degree in Environmental Sciences.

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  • Venezuela's blackout: Chaos spreads in Venezuela after failure at the Guri hydropower plant

The situation in Venezuela is alarming, according to the latest news. After several days without power, the country is devastated by the consequences of a failure at the Guri hydropower plant. So far, 16 states remain without power, creating chaos and leaving us with shocking images and accounts of the situation. 

We should recall that most of the energy consumed in the country comes from hydropower, about 80% from the Caroní river.

The cause

Although it is not the first time something like this happens, there is not much information on what caused the power outage. While the government blames it on 'sabotage', it is known that an overheat alarm was triggered at the San Gerónimo B and Malena substations. The latter connects directly with Guri, leading to a cascading failure in the power system. 

'Simón Bolívar' hydropower plant, located at the Guri dam (Wikipedia/CC).

The cause of the overheating could be a forest fire in the surrounding area, engineers suspect. The vegetation in the areas around power lines should be controlled, trimming it to prevent the risk of this type of events. In Venezuela, this maintenance has not been carried out for years. 

The problem affects most of the country, and almost all of the population.

How can it be solved?

Large investments in the sector are urgently needed, both in infrastructure and in manpower (qualified staff have abandoned the industry). Hydropower turbines are very deteriorated, and scheduled maintenance has not been done because they require repairs. Currently, Venezuela experiences a power generation deficit, and conventional measures could lead to a severe energy shortage.

Access to water is also directly related to the lack of power, as pumps grind to a halt. 

Daily life

In this post, and thanks to a Venezuelan friend, we compile several stories related to water that have been shared in social media.

Queues to collect water

The Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional shares in its Instagram account a video showing the queues to get water, with the following comment: "People line up to get water from a deep well near a factory that makes personal hygiene products in the Michelena sector, Valencia (State of Carabobo). Citizens go to the industrial area to collect water with containers and jerry cans.  Elderly people and children can be seen waiting to get water after the massive blackout affected the country, limiting access to water."

You can watch the video in this link:

People bathing in sewers

The same newspaper also publishes that some citizens have gone to the sewers to wash themselves: 'The population in the San Antonio sector, in Barquisimeto (Lara), denounce that since there is no water in their area, they resort to bathing in the city's sewers, after 50 hours without power.

An adult and two children went into the city's drainage system to wash themselves, since they have been without power since Thursday March 7th, when a massive blackout affected all Venezuelan states. "We have been bathing here since last Thursday, and this is happening in all communities. Next to my place people are cooking with firewood because we do not have gas either", said the man.'

You can watch the video in this link:

Water has been rationed for two years

‘Water has been rationed for two years. In October I used to have 30 minutes of running water in the morning, 30 minutes in the afternoon, and 30 minutes at night’ reports social media communicator Luis Bond from Venezuela.

Problems in Guri

Luis Carlos Diaz, another Venezuelan communicator, informed on Twitter last Monday: ‘the power supply has not been recovered, because they cannot repair the failure in Guri. It seems they are rationing power using power generated by low-capacity thermal plants. That is why power comes on and off at random’.

The military takes over tanker trucks

Earlier this week, and according to Luis Bond, through Twitter: ‘The tanker trucks that used to bring water to buildings are now in the hands of the military. Using the ‘state of emergency’ as an excuse, they are making drivers bring water throughout the city to ‘strategic’ points: Miraflores, Fuerte Tiuna, ministerios, and to others that take advantage of the system’.

Bathe or do the dishes

Luis Bond continued with his account of the state of affairs, reporting that ‘power fluctuates and does not last more than 8 hours in several places. Most of the country’s interior continues to be in the dark and uncommunicated’.

What to do?

In view of this situation, the recommendations to the public include:

  • Logically, stay calm and help if at all possible.
  • To keep the cold inside the fridge:​
    • Keep the fridge closed.​
    • Cover the fridge with blankets to keep it cold.​
    • Make ice whenever possible.​
    • Fill water bottles and keep them in the fridge.
    • Cold water helps maintain the temperature.
    • If in doubt, do not eat food that smells bad.
  • To conserve meat: add plenty of salt. Submerge it in water to remove the salt.
  • Vegetables: cut the stem and keep them in jars with water (as you would do with plant cuttings). Fruit can last up to two weeks without refrigeration.
  • Energy:​
    • Charge computers and use power banks as energy storage.
    • Use the 'power saving' mode in all devices.
    • Do not waste energy. Some should be kept for emergencies.

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