Power chaos

2010-02-18 00:00

PARTS of the city ground to a halt yesterday following a spate of power outages that were caused by exploding power controllers.

Yet another transformer caught alight on Prince Alfred Street yesterday afternoon, adding to the electricity woes that gripped certain areas on Tuesday after three sub-stations were knocked out.

Frustrated ratepayers contacted The Witness in droves to vent their anger, demanding to know why the municipality claimed power had been restored yesterday as they still had no electricity.

Said Burger Street resident Phiwe Sithole yesterday: “They said it’s been restored already, but I’m sitting here without electricity. Why are they making fools of us?”

Prince Alfred Street resident Nokuthula Sithole complained that they had been without electricity since Tuesday afternoon.

“We could not cook [Tuesday] night and [yesterday] morning we had to bath in cold water,” she said.

Sithole, who lives in a block of flats, said her next door neighbour’s flat almost went up in flames when a gas stove exploded.

“Had it not been [for] the Rural Emergency staff who [live] next to our flat, we [would] be talking [about] something else,” said Sithole, adding that her neighbour was severely traumatised after the incident.

She said she was not happy with the way the municipality had treated them because they did not even have the courtesy to give them notices regarding how long they would be without electricity.

Lee Bezuidenhout who runs a butchery in the CBD said he was in a dire situation as his business deals with perishable food items.

“We’re losing stock because the cold rooms are losing temperature. I don’t know what we’re going to do and every hour that goes past is troubling,” he said.

Bezuidenhout said one freezer held R100 000 worth of stock while another contained R40 000 worth of beef that was starting to go black. He made numerous calls to the electricity department to no avail and was at his wits’ end.

“How are we supposed to run a business? We’ve already had to throw out all the ice cream and our polony, chicken and pork is thawing,” he said.

Reports that St Anne’s Hospital and Medi-Clinic had to cancel all surgeries yesterday as a result of the power failure were disputed by both hospitals.

Medi-Clinic’s client services manager Reshnee Beekrum said everything was running as normal.

“We did not cancel any cases [yesterday], rather accommodated additional cases from other hospitals  … we have generators that are constantly maintained … in anticipation of further power cuts,” she said.

St Anne’s marketing officer Shubnum Ismail issued a statement on behalf of general manager Louis Joubert, stating that they were fortunate to have two generators at their disposal.

“As a precautionary measure we have nevertheless, for the time being, suspended elective surgical procedures to ensure patients’ safety … However, despite this, the hospital continues to run smoothly and efficiently without compromising medical care,” said Joubert.

Msunduzi Municipality’s process manager for electricity Maxwell Mthembu apologised to affected residents and said their team was working tirelessly on the burnt out substations.

Meanwhile, traffic officers had to direct traffic for the second consecutive day yesterday after the burnt out substations caused the robots to black out.

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