/ 24 April 2008

Kempton Park CBD without power until Sunday

Areas in and around the Kempton Park CBD will be without power until Sunday, the Ekurhuleni municipality said on Thursday.

A fire at a substation in Spartan on Monday led to the crisis that has left one resident dead and residential and business areas without electricity while technicians try to fix the problem.

Elsia Dornel succumbed to suffocation by fumes from a generator that was placed inside her house, the Times reported on Thursday. Her son Gerhard is in a critical condition in hospital. According to the newspaper, the generator was set up in a spare room in the house with only one window.

Ekurhuleni spokesperson Zweli Dlamini said: “We have a minimum period of five days for repairs and a maximum of up to 10 days [from the date of the incident]. We are trying to do the minimum.”

The affected areas include Kempton Park extension one, two and four, as well as the CBD, Allen Grove, Adleen and Spartan. Power had been restored on Thursday to about 75% of Kempton Park, excluding some areas in the CBD.

The municipality is replacing the transformer and panel that caught fire and repairing the structure that housed them. Dlamini said the council is “very optimistic” that it will be able to meet the deadline.

Load-shedding blamed

The power failure was caused by stresses on the power network resulting from them being switched on and off during load-shedding and undergoing no maintenance, said the Democratic Alliance (DA).

“[I have it] on good authority that ongoing load-shedding is placing extra stress on the electricity network due to equipment continuously being switched off and on off,” said Mike Waters, DA MP for Kempton Park.

“The fact is, if the substation in question had been serviced regularly, residents would most probably not have ended up without electricity,” he said.

Judith van der Westhuizen, assistant MD of Ellin Clinic in the Kempton Park CBD, said: “It does have a big impact on us, but with good planning we did prepare for this … and installed a generator last year at huge cost. It does have quite a financial implication on us. Sometimes we have to put the generator off because we can’t run at full capacity all the time.

“As a ballpark figure, it costs the clinic about R1 500 a day to run the generator. We keep our patients informed and they are taking it very well.”

The Festival Mall ice rink was closed “due to a total meltdown”, said a blog post run by Tri Ice Sports.

The DA called for a full investigation and added that the metro should reimburse residents for the losses they had suffered as a result of the interruption to the power supply.

Rudi Kruger of the Lawn Mower Clinic told the Times that while load-shedding has prompted many people to buy generators for back-up, “many of these consumers will be ignorant of generator safety”.

“One of the main rules that should be remembered is that a generator should never be used indoors, and if one puts it in a garage, a door should be left open. It should never be in a closed room.”

No load-shedding

Meanwhile, South Africans will be free of scheduled power cuts next week, Eskom said on Thursday.

Set to be a short working week because of public holidays, the parastatal said the scheduled power cuts will not go ahead as demand for power is usually lower on public holidays.

It said in a statement that although demand for power in the evenings is expected to be “tight”, it does not expect to go ahead with load-shedding unless “additional problems” are experienced.

Eskom said it is working with municipalities on initiatives to reduce the demand for electricity by the required 10%. Municipalities that achieve this reduction will be exempted from load-shedding as long as the reduction is maintained.

The announcement on Thursday came amid protests over Eskom’s proposed 53% tariff hike and with trade unions expressing concern over possible job losses due to the power crisis and its effect on economic growth.