Power surge fries suburb

2010-02-02 00:00

CHASE Valley residents got the shock of their lives yesterday when an electric fault blew out plug points and power boxes, resulting in extensive damage to appliances.

According to some of the affected residents, wafts of smoke drifted in the air and one home’s plugs even caught alight.

“Luckily my mother was in the house at the time. She ma­naged to put the fire out with a towel before it spread,” said a resident.

The resident said the problem started a week ago when the area kept experiencing dips in electricity. The situation worsened on Sunday when their lights were cut off at approximately 7 pm.

When they contacted the electricity department, they were told there was a huge cable fault in the area and workers were dispatched to fix the problem.

They worked on it all night up until the morning and their electricity eventually came on just before 6 am yesterday, they said.

Everything was fine until yesterday afternoon, when a resident got a frantic call from his mother to say the plugs were on fire.

Emergency services were contacted and a fire team responded promptly. His mother managed to contain the fire.

“They did an inspection and checked the ceiling to ensure that things were not smouldering and then left. They were very efficient,” said the resident.

During the power surge, items such as TVs, power boxes, video machines and various other appliances were damaged. One resident, whose home has an electric gate, said the gate kept opening and closing without being prompted.

A resident said workers from the electricity department were dispatched to sort the problem out.

“An electrician from the municipality did a test and found that the voltage that was coming through was 380 volts, whereas the norm is between 220 to 240 volts. I don’t know what the municipality did when they spent Sunday night working here, because it seems they only made the problem worse,” said a resident.

They said they were scared to even go near a light switch in case the problem resurfaced, and would not switch anything back on until the municipality gave them the go-ahead.

When The Witness arrived in the area yesterday afternoon, workers from the municipality’s electricity department were spotted in dug-out trenches working on underground cables.

Ward councillor Dave Ryder was also seen on site and said he was very concerned about the situation.

“If people weren’t at home it would have been disastrous,” he said.

Ryder said there had been a lack of communication from the municipality. He said the municipality should have contacted the affected residents, and explained the circumstances and how long it would take until the situation was rectified, as soon as the problem had occurred.

“We pay so much to live here and this is what we get. We’re going to be jumping into the pool for a bath and having braais for the next few days, it looks like,” said a resident.

When contacted later, Ryder said he had run into an on- site superintendent who told him they had a map of the area, and that six or seven houses were affected.

The superintendent then told Ryder there was a faulty cable that had been located and was being repaired.

“I told him to go to each house on the list and explain the problem, what caused it, and let them know when it would be sorted out,” he said.

The Msunduzi Municipality’s process manager for electricity, Maxwell Mthembu, said they were aware of the problem and that it was caused by a fault from one of the houses. The fault was then fixed and, for some reason, a few hours later, a cable joint caused the electricity to surge and the power blew, affecting other homes and resulting in da­maged appliances.

“Our guys were there working on it day and night. We have not neglected the residents and I have spoken to some of them. We apologise for the inconvenience,” he said.

Mthembu said the team would do their best to ensure that electricity was restored as soon as possible.

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