Power failure gives fuel thieves a chance

2008-07-17 00:00

A lengthy power outage in Richmond, caused by a transformer that tripped, gave thieves the cover of dark they needed to steal R14 000 worth of diesel from a dairy farmer.

Farmers Anthony and Carol Morris told The Witness yesterday that their electricity supply was interrupted at 3.30 pm on Wednesday afternoon, and inquiries to Eskom yielded the bad news.

“Eventually, after first listening to a recording that said there were no outages or problems in KZN, I managed to get hold of someone who said that there was a major breakdown at the Riverdale sub-station and that they were waiting for parts, so the power would be off for some time,” said Carol.

She said they then faced running their dairy farm on diesel to keep their milk cold and their machinery going.

“We started up a tractor powered with diesel that we keep in big tanks in the farmyard.”

But their usual farmyard lighting was off overnight and when her husband went outside yesterday morning, he discovered that one of his diesel tanks had been completely drained.

The thieves had stolen 36-metre-long rubber irrigation pipes from a pasture and connected them up to make a length of 150 metres, joining them to the diesel tank once they had smashed the lock. They then drained the 1 200-litre tank dry.

Carol said truck tyre tracks were found at the end of the irrigation line and she suspects the thieves filled plastic containers with diesel, loaded them on to the truck and left.

“We cannot claim from insurance because the tanks should have been enclosed in a building. It’s a disaster. Diesel is like gold these days. The public should know what farmers put up with.”

She suspects the intruders had inside information and said that they have another tank that could be used to power the tractor until the electricity supply was restored.

Koos Marais of the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union’s Security Desk said that although no other similar cases have been reported to him, there is no doubt that the theft of fuel will become a trend as the price of it spirals.

He said farmers with the capacity to store fuel should also take every precaution to secure it adequately.

Police spokeswoman Inspector Joey Jeevan confirmed that a case is being investigated in connection with the incident.

stephs@witness.co.za

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