Image: Colombia blackout
Guillermo Legaria  /  EPA
A man eats lunch by candlelight in Bogota, Colombia, Tuesday after a nationwide power failure.
updated 4/26/2007 8:13:54 PM ET 2007-04-27T00:13:54

Colombia’s electrical grid collapsed Thursday, causing a nationwide blackout that briefly halted stock trading, trapped people in elevators and left authorities struggling to determine the cause.

By midday, power was slowly being restored to homes and companies, and the north of the capital — home to many company headquarters — was back to normal.

President Alvaro Uribe told journalists in the southern city of Cali that the blackout, which began at midmorning, “appears to have affected the entire country.”

Luis Alarcon, manager of state-controlled electricity distributor ISA, issued a statement that the power outage apparently began with an undetermined technical glitch at a substation in Bogota and quickly spread to the rest of the country.

Authorities said that 10 people were trapped in elevators during the outage.

He said work crews had re-established power to about 20 percent of the country and hoped to reconnect the rest in a few hours.

Terrorism not suspected
Bogota’s stock exchange resumed trading around noon as power returned. It said trading would be extended for an hour to make up for the suspension. RCN television reported that power had returned to central Bogota, and to parts of the city’s northern districts, where many companies have their headquarters.

Rosa Ortiz, who runs a cigarette stand at a busy intersection in Bogota, said that with traffic lights knocked out, “we’ve seen a few near accidents, but so far the drivers seem to be adapting to the situation.”

There was no indication of a terrorist attack, though leftist rebels routinely sabotage electric transmission lines as part of their four-decade old campaign to overthrow the government.

Short-lived localized blackouts are a common occurrence in this South American country.

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