Venezuela hit by blackout, government blames 'sabotage'

Reuters
People sit outside a shopping mall during a massive blackout in Caracas
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People sit outside a shopping mall during a massive blackout in Caracas September 3, 2013. REUTERS/Jorge …

CARACAS (Reuters) - A blackout hit much of Venezuela including the capital Caracas on Tuesday, but the oil industry was not affected and the government said it expected power to be restored within hours.

The cut struck a dozen of the South American country's 24 states and caused traffic chaos in parts of Caracas and other cities.

The OPEC nation's oil refineries, which are powered by separate generator plants, were not affected.

A senior Energy Ministry official said a fault occurred in one of the national grid's major transmission lines, which caused power cuts in the west and center of the country.

"It's going to take several hours to restart the generation plants so we can restore national service," Franco Silva, vice minister of electricity development, told state television.

President Nicolas Maduro said he had ordered the armed forces to help ensure security while power was restored. He said his political opponents may have been behind the blackout.

"At this moment, everything seems to indicate that the far-right has resumed its plan for an Electrical Strike against the country," Maduro said on Twitter.

(Reporting by Diego Ore and Daniel Wallis; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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