Caracas: A new blackout hit several regions in Venezuela including much of Caracas, AFP and social media users reported, sowing alarm two weeks after a nationwide outage paralysed the country.
The power cut in the capital occurred at 1720 GMT and knocked out electricity in the city centre. Cellphone signals were also disrupted and television was blanked out. Shops hastily lowered shutters, fearing looters.
Anxious Twitter users said power was also out across much of the rest of the city, and in several big cities in the west of the country including Barquisimeto, Maracaibo and Barinas.
Some said power came and went in their areas but remained unstable.
"Not another blackout, no God, no," tweeted one resident, Flore Melero.
In the last blackout, which started March 7 and lasted a week, more than a dozen patients in hospitals died, public transport came to a halt, production slowed in the vital oil sector and water supplies were interrupted, forcing citizens to turn to sewage outflows and polluted water sources.
President Nicolas Maduro blamed the previous outage on a cyberattack by the United States and alleged that the opposition, led by congress chief Juan Guaido whom the US and 50 other countries recognise as interim president, were intent on "sabotaging" infrastructure. He ordered the creation of a new military unit to protect basic installations.
Observers said that while a US attack was possible it was unlikely. They said years of underinvestment, poor management and corruption was the more likely culprit and they predicted more power cuts would follow.
According to a study by the opposition-ruled congress and a medical NGO, Medicos por la Salud, around half of Venezuela's hospitals possess generators. In the last blackout, however, many did not work or were insufficient for the needs of intensive-care patients, neonatal wards, and dialysis patients.