Bird on fire cuts power in city

2011-10-01 00:00

A SCOTTSVILLE resident saw a hadeda sitting on an electricity pylon explode into flames yesterday morning, cutting off power to large parts of Pietermaritzburg.

Dave Moon, who lives in Woodhouse Road, said he was outside cleaning his koi pond filter when he heard an “almighty bang”.

“I heard this explosion and saw flames going up about five or six metres, engulfing the entire top of the pylon. There was a lot of smoke. The charred remains of the hadeda are still stuck to the pylon. The fire must have burnt for a good few minutes.”

On June 6 Moon witnessed a carbon copy of the incident when a hadeda sat on a power line in Hesketh Drive, damaging the R300 000 breaker and cutting electricity to various parts of the city for a large part of the day.

Yesterday’s outage affected the Willowton industrial area, Lincoln Meade, Scottsville, Woodburn, Hayfields, Eastwood, Mountain Rise and parts of the CBD.

The Msunduzi electricity control centre said: “Three primary sub-stations were affected. The power went off at about 11 am and it was restored at 11.20 am. Sub-stations at Riverside, Woodburn and Heskett were affected.”

The Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business and Commerce received a number of calls from businesses to find out how long the outage would last, said CEO Melanie Veness.

“Businesses need this information to make critical decisions. We haven’t measured what affect all the downtime caused by outages has on businesses, but it must be quite significant. Both the Msunduzi council and the chamber have agreed that the issue of electricity is critical, hence we are to formalise a technical sub-committee that will look at, among other issues, the security of supply and electricity replacement plans for the city,” said Veness.

The cash-strapped council, under increasing pressure to upgrade its 40-year-old electricity infrastructure which could cost as much as R800 million, has said an upgrade will take five years to complete.

Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Brian Zuma could not reached for comment at the time of going to press, and a later outage, which affected Wembley in the late afternoon and into the evening, was unexplained.

Gordon Bennett, a member and former chairperson of the KZN Midlands Club, said the hadeda population has increased in the Midlands and countrywide.

“No one really knows why, but there numbers are increasing while their habitat, which is grassy plains, is getting smaller. Perhaps it is because the cattle egret, which feeds in the same way, has been dwindling in numbers,” said Bennett.

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