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10.3 million CFE customers affected as electrical system fails

The federal electrical grid failed Monday afternoon, leaving 10.3 million customers in several of Mexico’s major cities without power for almost two hours.

About 19% of CFE customers nationwide were affected in parts of Mexico City and México state as well as the cities of Guadalajara, Monterrey, Hermosillo, Saltillo, Culiacán, San Luis Potosí, Aguascalientes, Pachuca, Mérida and Oaxaca, among others.

At least a dozen states were affected.

In Mexico City, services on Line A and Line 1 of the Metro had to be suspended temporarily due to the outage.

The grid failure also affected countless citizens across Mexico caring for Covid patients at home who are dependent on oxygen supplementation.

“It was the worst 50 minutes of our family’s lives,” Mexico City resident Alejandra Carmona told the newspaper Reforma. “My mother has to be connected to an oxygen concentrator that doesn’t work without power, and it suddenly shut off on us.”

Edson Cruz, also of Mexico City, found himself in a similar situation and had to scramble to find a nonelectrical alternative to the oxygen machine for his father, who is suffering from Covid-19.

“We reacted quickly when we saw that everything had shut down. Fortunately, we were able to use one of my uncle’s portable oxygen tanks, and we borrowed someone else’s tank in order to fill it.”

Federal authorities blamed the outage on “unforeseen circumstances,” pointing to transmission line irregularities between the cities of Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, and Linares, Nuevo León, which they said caused a cascade effect that eventually led to the automatic shutdown of 16 power stations, including photovoltaic and wind energy plants. They dismissed the possibility of maintenance issues.

“[The shutdown happened] to protect the rest of the system,” said Carlos Gonzalo Meléndez, director of Mexico’s National Energy Control Center, in a virtual press conference with Federal Electricity Commission chief Manuel Bartlett.

Gonzalo promised that his agency would analyze the causes of the unexpected outage in conjunction with CFE and that the public would be informed of their findings.

“These outages are not common,” Gonzalo said. “We’re talking about extraordinary cases that are dealt with correctly.”

The outage deprived the grid of 26% of its total electrical output, or about the amount needed to power the Valley of México, Gonzalo said.

Bartlett said the failure did not cause any damage to CFE’s grid.

President López Obrador insisted Tuesday morning that it was a one-off event.

“Yes, there was a power failure,” he conceded, adding: “It won’t be repeated.”

Sources: El Universal (sp), Reforma (sp)