BRASILIA — A massive blackout across half of Brazil last week was caused by a short-circuit during bad weather, the energy ministry insisted on Monday despite persistent doubts over its explanation.
"Short-circuits in the Itabera substation in Sao Paulo state provoked the disconnection of three high-tension lines that carried energy from the Itaipu hydro-electric plant," Brazil's main power facility, Energy Minister Edison Lobao said in a statement.
"The region was experiencing intense atmospheric discharges, winds and rain," he said.
The declaration was a reiteration of the explanation Lobao gave in the wake of the huge outage last Tuesday which left more than a third of Brazil's 190 million people without power for several hours.
Lobao blamed the outage on a storm that he said disconnected three power lines.
But the country's National Space Research Institute has challenged that theory by stating that a careful analysis of atmospheric conditions recorded by satellites showed that there was no lightning strong enough at the time to have caused the outage.
The electricity company in charge of power lines in southern Brazil also said it had found no damage to the infrastructure.
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has stepped back from the argument over the causes of the blackout.
On Monday, in his weekly radio address that was given from Rome, which he was visiting for a summit, he vowed "all will be investigated so that... we will have the truth and only the truth to inform the Brazilian people."
He also accused the opposition of playing "gotcha" by flaying the government over the incident.
His government has been embarrassed by the international reaction to the outage, which questioned Brazil's energy stability for the 2016 Olympics to be hosted in Rio de Janeiro.
Lula has repeated that Brazil's energy system is robust, with plenty of energy production and transmission facilities.
The government's attorney general's office has opened an investigation into the power-out and demanded detailed explanations from the energy ministry and the operator of the national grid.
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