Elderly suffer in blackout

2012-05-18 00:00

A PRIVATE hospital, an old age home and residents in the city centre spent the past 48 hours without electricity following explosions at two substations in Prince Alfred Street on Wednesday.

By yesterday there were still no traffic lights between Boshoff and Prince Alfred streets, and businesses were hit hard by the power outage.

At St Anne’s hospital, with more than 200 patients, minimal power was supplied by generators.

“If they don’t know what time the electricity is going to come on they must say they don’t know, instead of giving us false hope,” said an irate resident.

Another resident said he phoned early on Wednesday morning and was told the power would be on during the day, but when The Witness spoke to him yesterday afternoon the power supply was still down.

More than 100 frail and vulnerable senior citizens living at the SA Vrouefederasie (SAVF) old-age home in Prince Alfred were also affected. Home manager Henry Spencer said the residents had had no hot water to bath or shower for the past two days.

“A number of wheelchair-bound residents could not get up or down the building floors, and they have had to sleep in cold rooms with no lights. By 5 pm the rooms are already pitch black,” said Spencer.

Unlike the more affluent old-age homes, the SAVF cannot afford a stand-by generator, emergency lighting or solar heating.

An exasperated Prince Alfred Street shop owner asked: “Why is it blowing up each time it is repaired? Do they know what they are doing?”

He said he was awoken by a big bang coming from the substation opposite his flat at around 5 am on Wednesday, and then the power went off. Another substation blew up at the corner of Prince Alfred and Retief streets.

The nursing services manager at St Anne’s, Sweety Pillay, said the facility was well prepared for power outages.

“Generators have enabled the hospital to function while ensuring the wellbeing and comfort of our patients. As a precautionary measure and in the interest of patient safety, the hospital is only performing emergency theatre cases until electrical supply is re-established.”

Pillay thanked doctors, patients and staff for their support and understanding.

Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Brian Zuma admitted that there were serious power challenges in some areas around St Anne’s and along Prince Alfred Street.

“The cause of the power failure is the explosion at the Prince Alfred Street substation, and it was totally damaged. “Our technicians are working on the problem, and we expect power to be back by tomorrow morning at the latest.

“We appeal for calm among residents and businesses as this is a major problem that needs a much longer time to sort out,” said Zuma.

• mlondi.radebe@witness.co.za

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