Electrician hurt in Hilton’s latest power drama

2013-01-30 00:00

AN electrician was badly burnt and had to be rushed to hospital in a day of high drama surrounding the latest power outage in Hilton.

The technician was lucky to be alive after an explosion at the Hillary Road sub-station yesterday evening. He sustained burns to his hands and face.

This was shortly after the repair team discovered that the problem was far worse than they had expected.

The faulty cables causing the power outage lie some two metres deep under Hilton Avenue at the entrance to the Hilton Quarry Centre.

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Brian Zuma said the team had called in Eskom and they were working on linking cables to get a temporary power supply going. They had expected this to be up and running by 9 pm last night, but the blowout put paid to this.

Ward councillor Pam Passmoor said the injured technician was rushed to hospital by his colleagues.

Deputy municipal manager Thokozani Maseko said they could not divulge the name of the technician and were waiting for a doctor’s report on the extent of his injuries. Maseko said work had to be suspended last night as they had to look at safety measures.

For Mark Strang, manager of the Hilton Superspar at the Quarry Centre, the idea of having to contend with road excavations on top of the power outages, was the last straw.

“This is Hilton’s main shopping centre and businesses are suffering huge losses as a result of the outages. Last month was a nightmare,” said Strang.

He said with the road excavations taking place, the municipality owed it to the centre to give the businesses detailed information on how long the digging would take and how the disruptions would affect them.

Questions remain on how a road got built over a municipal servitude containing underground power cables.

Prior to 1994, Hilton was run by a town board with electricity supplied by Pietermaritzburg.

With the advent of the new democratic dispensation, the town board opted to be part of the uMngeni Municipality, but because of the grid, the electricity supply remained with Msunduzi Municipality.

Zuma said it was not clear when the road extensions were done, but the road was extended to accommodate the entrance to the shopping centre.

“When they extended the road it covered our cables, which run two metres underground,” said Zuma.

He said the municipality would have details today on what the repairs would entail and how long they were expected to take.

Chairperson of the Hilton Residents’ Association (HRA), Tony van Schijndel, said the power outages in the suburb had reached crisis levels. “The outages over the past month are the worst we have ever experienced. We had several blackouts about two years ago, but not as bad as this,” he said.

Van Schijndel said the HRA had set up an electrical sub-committee made up of retired engineers and had offered the municipality help and asked for regular meetings. So far they had only met once.

He said promises of communication to keep residents updated when there were outages failed to happen. “If we know what is happening 90% of the problem is solved, people won’t get so angry,” he added. According to Van Schinjdel, the HRA’s medium- to long-term plan is to investigate moving to Eskom supply.

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