Electric power outage hits Venezuela's capital

The fire was still raging March 25 in the dry brush of Waraira Repano National Park, which is a half-hour drive north of downtown Caracas

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A forest fire cut electricity to most of Venezuela's capital and officials were still struggling to restore power to some areas March 25, 14 hours after the lights went out.

The blackout started late March 24 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 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 fire was still raging March 25 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 country suffered major blackouts in 2012 and 2013. The administration blamed to power outages on sabotage, while members opposition said they were the result of government incompetence.

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