A huge power outage which left much of Venezuela in darkness has been blamed by President Nicolas Maduro on "sabotage" by the opposition.
Power was cut off in the capital of Caracas and many other cities just after 8pm local time (12.30am GMT) right in the middle of a televised speech by the president. The Caracas metro was brought to a standstill and city workers were sent home.
This blackout followed a similar outage in September, one of the worst in the country's history. While power cuts are common for the state of 29 million people, the capital is usually unaffected.
Maduro, the 50-year-old president who won the election this year following the death of former leader Hugo Chavez, claimed that the country's opposition purposely disrupted the power grid in order to humiliate him.
After being cut off mid-address, Maduro tweeted instead that the "strange blackout ... occurred in the same place as the last act of sabotage".
"I ask the people to stay alert," he tweeted.
Electricity minister Jess Chacon called for patience while the National Assembly president, Diosdado Cabello, supported Maduro's accusation that the opposition was to blame for the blackout.
"I have no doubt that today's electricity sabotage is part of the rightwing's plan," he tweeted.
Wealthy residents of Caracas took to the streets, banging pots and pans to vent their anger against the Venezuelan government, shouting: "Maduro, resign!"
The blackout was fixed in the capital by 11pm local time at which point Maduro undertook another public address to the nation.
"Be strong against this electrical war that yesterday's fascists have declared against our people," he said.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles responded to the accusations via Twitter.
"For once in your lives, be responsible," he tweeted.
Although power returned to Caracas after a few hours, remoter areas of the nation remained in darkness late into the evening.
Venezuela is a resource-rich nation with the largest oil reserves in the world and rivers that create two-thirds of the country's power via hydroelectricity.
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