Two-Week Blackout Sparks Protests in North Brazil


Protests erupted in northern Brazil's Amapa state over a two-week power outage that has unleashed chaos in the region, officials and residents said Wednesday.

Protesters blocked roads overnight with piles of burning tires and rubbish in the state capital, Macapa, and the city of Santana, police said in a statement.

The latest unrest in the remote Amazon rainforest state, which straddles the equator, erupted after residents whose electricity had been partially restored lost it again Tuesday night.

"That left us extremely worried, because the authorities had been telling us the problem would be fixed this week. People lost all hope," said Macapa resident Elayne Cantuaria, a civil court judge.

"We're living in total chaos here," she told AFP by phone.

The blackout started on November 3, when a fire broke out at Amapa's main electricity substation, plunging the entire state into darkness.

Officials have not yet determined the cause.

They have been struggling to restore power, including shipping generators and a new transformer up the Amazon River by raft.

The state, which is twice the size of Ireland and home to 860,000 people, had been slowly restoring electricity to most towns -- albeit with erratic rationing schemes that still left residents without power most of the day.

But Tuesday's blackout knocked the grid offline again for more than two hours in 13 of the 16 towns where power had been partially restored.

Stores have no fresh food, and many residents have been left with no water because they depend on electric pumps.

And there is a daily scramble to find spots with electricity to charge phones and computers.

"It's total craziness. I have no words to describe how difficult it is," said resident Ilana Kapah, also a judge, who ended up leaving for her hometown, Belem, in the neighboring state of Para.

Health officials fear that people crowding into the few places with working outlets could lead to a surge in Covid-19 cases, just as the pandemic worsens again in Brazil, the country with the second-highest death toll after the United States.

The crisis, and the delay in resolving it, have fueled criticism of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro's government.

Police said there were nine protests in all overnight, bringing the total number of demonstrations since the blackout began to 104.

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