Forest fire blacks out downtown Caracas

Associated Press
Public employees stand outside their office buildings as they wait for power to be restored, in downtown Caracas, Venezuela, Tuesday, March 25, 2014. A forest fire cut electricity to most of Venezuela's capital and officials were still struggling to restore power to some areas Tuesday, 14 hours after the lights went out. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)
.

View gallery

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — CARACAS, Venezuela - A forest fire cut electricity to most of Venezuela's capital and officials were still struggling to restore power to some areas Tuesday, 14 hours after the lights went out.

The blackout paralyzed subway stations, forced workplaces to close and snarled traffic. Downtown, workers killed time in front of their office buildings while they waited for power to return even as officials' midday deadline to solve the problem passed.

The blackout started late Monday night after a fire destroyed transmission lines, according to Electricity Minister Jesse Chacon. Officials believe the fire was set intentionally, in part because it began at 10 p.m., not in the heat of the afternoon like most wildfires.

The fire was still raging Tuesday in the dry brush of Waraira Repano National Park, which is a half-hour drive north of downtown Caracas.

"We are very sorry for the inconvenience, but that is what happens when these fires, apparently started on purpose, affect a public service," Chacon said.

The socialist country suffered major blackouts in 2012 and 2013. The administration blamed the power outages on sabotage, while opponents said they were the result of government incompetence.