The Campana Federal Court, in Buenos Aires province, is investigating fires in the local area that caused a nationwide power outage yesterday. The court is exploring the possibility that “malicious human action” was behind them.
Today, the Energy Secretariat tweeted that fires in the countryside caused problems with high-voltage power lines, causing an imbalance in the power generation system which prompted several power plants to disconnect from the grid as a precaution.
Some 20 million people were left without electricity for three hours.
Judge Adrián González started the investigation after Economy Minister Sergio Massa filed a legal complaint last night asking him to “investigate, prosecute and, if necessary, detain” those responsible for the fires. The minister thought yesterday’s events could constitute the crime of “fires and devastation,” punishable by up to ten years in prison.
In his request, the minister wrote that he was certain the fires were intentional.
However, an official source with knowledge of the matter told the Herald that the Justice system should determine the cause of the fires, since there is a difference between the common agricultural practice of pasture burning, which could be a case of negligence, and fires set with the intention of harming the power grid.
Federal Police have confirmed that there were several fires in the area and that they contributed to the power outage, according to a report by González.
The Federal Police Firefighting Unit is examining the precise circumstances, and the court has created a task force together with the Energy Secretariat, the power company CAMMESA, and the Atucha power plant.
The government confirmed it will use satellite images to identify potential culprits, the Economy Ministry’s Legal and Administrative Secretary Ricardo Casal told the media.
The court is also looking for witnesses and private security camera recordings.
“Since early this morning, we have been waiting for the results of the technical analyses and investigative tasks we have ordered,” judge González wrote.