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China offers to help Venezuela restore power after vast blackout

AFP  |  Caracas 

on Wednesday offered to help bring its collapsing power grid back online as sought to stave off rising public anger that is bolstering his US-backed rival

A vast blackout that struck nearly a week ago -- the worst in its history -- has deepened the South American country's already grave economic crisis, especially by disrupting the supply of drinking water.

Although has since been restored to most of the capital Caracas, water was having to be trucked in, and western swaths of the country remain without power.

"No water, no power, no medicine, no cash, no transport. This has been dreadful," one resident, Victoria Milano, 40, told AFP.

Guaido, an whose claim to be Venezuela's interim is backed by the US and 50 other countries, told supporters on Tuesday he expected to have military chiefs on his side and take over the presidential palace "very soon."

"This desperation and darkness is caused by the dictatorship," Guaido said, alleging that around 20 people had died in hospital because of the power

Venezuela's prosecutor's office has hit back with a criminal investigation against Guaido for "sabotage," alleging he had a hand in the blackout. But the remains free after the US warned of "consequences" if he were arrested.

Maduro has accused of waging "cybernetic" and "electromagnetic" attacks against Venezuela's Guri hydroelectric plant, which provides power to 80 percent of the country's 30 million inhabitants.

As he declared "victory" on television late Tuesday, claiming power had been restored "in almost all" the nation, residents in formerly middle-class neighborhoods banged pots in the street in protest.

Experts said an attack by a on Venezuela's grid was possible, but unlikely.

"Knowing Venezuela, it was likely an internal failure," Jeff Middleton, the at The Vault Foundation, a company that secures crypto currency transactions, told AFP.

Venezuela's infrastructure has degraded over years because of lack of investment, a significant brain drain, and the government's practice of putting the military in charge of key civilian facilities and companies.

That has impacted not only the grid but also the country's vital industry.

The situation has worsened with successive rounds of US sanctions against Maduro's regime, including steps that have severely curbed its exports.

While much of and have thrown their weight behind Guaido with a view to forcing in Venezuela, Maduro has the support of and China, major creditors and buyers of Venezuelan

on Wednesday said it stood ready to help get its up and running again.

"hopes that Venezuela can quickly find the cause of this accident and restore normal power and social order," Chinese foreign ministry said at a regular briefing in

"China is willing to offer assistance and technical support to Venezuela to restore the power system," Lu said.

The said China was "very concerned" about reports of a cyber attack, but declined to directly blame the

Spain, one of the EU strongly backing Guaido, also offered help to fix Venezuela's "badly deteriorated"

According to Ecoanalitica, an economic analysis firm, the blackout had by Tuesday cost Venezuela USD 875 million.

"There is major in many critical areas in the oil sector," it said, estimating that up to 70 percent of the one million barrels of oil a day Venezuela still managed to produce could end up being affected.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, March 13 2019. 21:17 IST