Lights out again in Hilton

2010-04-22 00:00

“IT’S bleak on the hill in Hilton today.”

That was the glum sentiment of a resident who was without power overnight on Tuesday and most of yesterday.

Hilton residents complained bitterly about being left in the dark with the ineffectual electricity supply faulting more and more often.

The electricity was switched back on at about 2 pm yesterday, but went off again a few hours later due to overload.

Maxwell Mthembu, process manager for the Msunduzi electri­city department, said yesterday morning that Hilton had lost supply on both its infeed lines.

“We switched the one infeed line off because it was giving problems, and then the second infeed line faulted on Tuesday evening.”

Mthembu said this was due to the overloading of the one infeed. He said he suspected that residents switched on their geysers and stoves around the same time and this led to the power cuts.

“We will ask residents to switch on their geysers around midnight and just use the electricity for mainly cooking, or else the power will cut off,” said Mthembu.

He said contractors who were tasked with finding the fault overnight on Tuesday were unable to trace the cause of the second fault by yesterday morning. Acting deputy municipal manager for Infrastructure Services Thokozani Maseko said his staff took longer than expected to restore electricity because they had to sift through a 13 km infeed line to trace the cause of the fault.

The “good news”, said Mthembu, is that the nationwide strike by municipal employees is over, “and our workers can now start helping the contractors to find the fault”.

Many irate residents, who were unable to get through to the electricty department at all yesterday, called The Witness to find out what was happening, and to complain that Hilton’s power supply is a joke.

Msunduzi Mayor Mike Tarr was not happy about the blackout ­either.

He told The Witness, after a meeting with electricity department managers, that the department’s call centre has collapsed and there are plans to turn it around.

In September last year, The Witness reported that the previous deputy municipal manager for electricity, Phil Mashoko, gave the assurance that the power supply to Hilton was reliable, as the two problematic 33kV lines that were the source of previous outages had just been serviced and upgraded.

Said a resident, “When it’s summer, they blame outages on storms or trees falling on lines. In winter, we are told it’s overloading that is causing the problems.”

Another said residents are fast losing any sympathy they may have for municipal workers. “We have had no refuse collection and now we have no lights, so they can go to hell.”

Resident Robert Thompson said that two years ago, a manager in the electricity department, now retired, warned him that Hilton is heading for a major power crisis.

“The area of Hilton has quadrupled in size, but the power infrastructure has not kept up with the growth …”

Thompson said the electricity manager had warned of “endemic power failures”.

“But no one listened.”

TEXT BOX

Intermittent power outages since Sunday have left the Hilton Village business centre out of business.

Many shops had to close up earlier than normal as a result of the power cut that began on Tuesday night, said Movie Den owner, Karen Dobson.

Dobson said nearly all business operators at the centre, including coffee shops, restaurants, banks, and pharmacies, lost big business as a result.

A local Hilton Pharmacy owner, who asked not to be named, said she had to turn customers back because of the electricity problem.

“People can’t even pay with their cards, the machines are not working,” she said. “We can’t even place orders because phone lines are off and cellphone batteries are dead.”

“We lost business big time and the whole neighbourhood is affected.”

The Alpha Pharm pharmacist said she has vaccines for fatal diseases that should always be kept refrigerated or else they have to be written off.

She said their businesses were at stake as they couldn’t bank their cash since banks were not operational due to the outage.

“That poses a serious security threat because our panic buttons are also useless.”

She said setting up a battery back-up system was out of her reach because “it costs about R50 000” to set-up.

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