(Updates with service restored, fresh minister quote)
By Alexandra Ulmer and Fabian Cambero
CARACAS, Dec 18 (Reuters) - A power outage hit parts of the Venezuelan capital Caracas as well as the nearby states of Miranda and Vargas for around five hours on Monday, in what critics said was another sign of the oil-rich nation’s economic meltdown.
Authorities blamed the outage, which began around noon (1600 GMT), on the collapse of an important cable linking a power plant and a transmission tower.
The fault affected some phone lines, parts of the Caracas metro, and the main Maiquetia airport just outside the capital.
Many workers had no choice but to walk home, shops and restaurants closed, and Venezuelans grumbled that another day was disrupted by tumult.
The country is already grappling with the world’s fastest inflation, rising malnutrition, and disease as the state-led economic system grinds to a halt.
“Venezuela has fallen apart,” said David Garcia, 38, as he queued for a hotdog at a stand in the wealthier Chacao neighborhood. He had spent two hours looking for an open restaurant because he could not cook at home.
Venezuela has in recent years suffered frequent blackouts that critics attribute to insufficient investment following the 2007 nationalization of the electricity sector.
“This is a symptom of a country collapsing due to the negligence of those in power,” tweeted opposition lawmaker Tomás Guanipa.
The government has in some cases attributed the blackouts to sabotage or accused critics of exaggerating problems.
Energy minister Luis Motta on Monday tweeted articles on a recent power outage at Atlanta airport in the U.S. state of Georgia, adding: “It happens there too.”
He did not provide details on the magnitude and effects of Monday’s blackout.
Shopkeepers complained that the outage had hurt business.
“It’s a lost day,” said Armindo Gomes, 24, whose Portuguese family runs two bakeries, as he pointed at dough, cheese and meat that should have been refrigerated. (Reporting by Fabian Cambero and Alexandra Ulmer, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)