Suspected rebels attacked four energy pylons with dynamite on Monday, leaving more than 2.3 million people in southwestern Colombia without electricity. Energy officials were scrambling to find a temporary fix while the army works to secure the areas around the downed energy towers so crews can move in and repair them, Mines and Energy Minister Luis Ernesto Mejia said. The minister said that once the region has been secured, it could take another two days to repair the damaged electrical towers.
The affected area, which includes the entire states of Putumayo, Cauca and Narino, runs along Colombia's southern border with Ecuador, and officials earlier Monday hoped Ecuador could loan them electricity temporarily. Mejia said that won't be possible.
An army official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said authorities believe Colombia's main rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, was responsible for the Monday morning attacks that triggered the blackout. The FARC and a smaller guerrilla group have been fighting the Colombian government for four decades. They often blow up energy towers, bridges, oil pipelines and other infrastructure in an effort to wreak havoc on the economy.
The rebels have de-facto control of large parts of the region where the pylon attacks occurred, and in the past few months have launched several deadly assaults on military installations in the area. More than 18,000 of the 50-meter (165-foot) tall electrical towers dot Colombia's vast and mountainous territory, making them an easy target. Rebels blew up 121 electrical towers last year, down from an all-time high of 483 in 2002, according to the government, AP reports.