Residents want to claim

2017-04-18 13:38
The burnt wire (circled) that is suspected to have caused the outage dangles in a pit dug by CBI technicians.INSET: Msunduzi Mayor Themba Njilo waits for updates at the Chatterton substation following the massive power outage in Pietermaritzburg.

The burnt wire (circled) that is suspected to have caused the outage dangles in a pit dug by CBI technicians.INSET: Msunduzi Mayor Themba Njilo waits for updates at the Chatterton substation following the massive power outage in Pietermaritzburg. (Chelsea Pieterse)

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Many Pietermaritzburg residents have slammed the City for what they say has been a lack of information on the progress in resolving the massive power outage that plunged large areas into darkness for two days over the Easter weekend.

Half the city was left without power just before midnight on Saturday.

Already outraged at the loss of thousands of rands worth of food in their fridges and deep freezers, many Prestbury and Clarendon residents were left without water too On Monday.

Msunduzi spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said late on Monday the forecast of 8 pm for all power to hopefully be restored had been pushed back to midnight last night. However, technicians managed to install a new cable by 7 pm and power began to come back on.

Mafumbatha again apologised to residents for the outage.

When asked what the procedure was for people wanting to claim from the municipality for perishables that had spoiled, she said those wanting to lodge a claim needed to fill in a form and submit it to Msunduzi’s claims division. “Every case will have to be treated individually. They will have to wait and see.”

She said people could go to the AS Chetty building and ask for the form. Anyone wanting to get a form sent to them can e-mail to request this.

She said the water outage in Prestbury was not related to the power problem. She said the problem was based at the Midmar water works. “It’s unfortunate that all these things are happening at the same time.”

When asked how information about the outage had been relayed to residents, she said she had spoken on radio and that Mayor Themba Njilo had posted on his Facebook page on Sunday. His post read: “Please be alert that at the moment we are experiencing an electricity problem in the CBD and some surrounding areas but please note that we are trying our best to sort this issue as possible as we are waiting for a specialist from JHB that will assist our team to sort the issue.”

On Monday morning The Witness met the mayor at the Chatterton substation along with technicians from CBI Electric: African Cables from Vereeniging.

Durban CBI overseer Rodney Smith said a small electrical fire on the Pine Street cable running from the Chatterton substation caused an oil leak in the Pine Street cable, ultimately causing the massive power outage.

Smith said the CBI technicians had arrived late on Sunday evening and had worked on the issue throughout the night. He said they would continue working until the problem was resolved.

Smith said CBI would have to replace the oil line at the substation and replace the earthing on the burnt wire.

He added that CBI had brought with them an “oil van” that would help pressurise the oil in the substation.

Njilo said CBI was the only company in the country that had the skills to fix the problem.

Njilo said the Chatterton substation was the main supplier to eight substations in the city, including the Pine Street substation. “Once the issue has been resolved at Chatterton, everything will be running smoothly,” he said.

However, while at the site, CBI received information that cables had been stolen from Retief Street and another electric cable running to Pine Street had been damaged due to “a fault in the system”.

However, CBI would not specify what the fault was or what had caused it.

Then, just when residents thought the situation could not get any worse, parts of Prestbury and Clarendon ran out of water.

Umgeni Water spokesperson Shami Harichunder said there was cable theft on Eskom’s side that left the Midmar treatment plant without power for 11 hours.

He said the plant’s pump was not working for 11 hours and would have affected parts of Msunduzi, however, Eskom had fixed the problem yesterday and the plant was in normal working order again.

Late on Monday afternoon, Msunduzi water and sanitation manager Brenden Sivparsad said they were waiting for the water levels in the pipelines to stabilise. Thereafter, normal water flow would return. Water supplies began to fail in parts of Prestbury last night just as power was restored.

Wembley House staff nurse Lara Smith said they had downsized for Easter and had moved their critical patients to hospitals. The facility is using a generator, but had ran out of diesel yesterday. Smith said their stoves, fridges and oxygen machines all used electricity. They were able to get more fuel for the generator, but this was only being used for vital equipment; patients were otherwise left in the dark.

"Tell us when it will be fixed"

Fed-up residents took to The Witness Facebook page to vent their frustrations at the power and water outage.

Some residents have called on the municipality to refund them for any damages or financial losses due to the outage, as some have lost a month’s supply of food.

Facebook user Norma Ford thanked The Witness for supplying information on the outages.

“I live in Prestbury. The most frustrating thing is that when you phone the call centre, all you get is a voice recording that is not very clear as to what the problem is,” she posted. “It would be nice if we knew when the problem would be resolved,” she said.

Lungelo S’ya Radebe said, “Just stop lying to us. We would appreciate dealing with reality rather then being given false hope.”

“What about our frozen foods that has already defrosted and is now going bad?” asked Facebook user Saliema Khan.

“We live in Morcom Road and are without electricity and water. How does one cope? I don’t know anymore. It has been a difficult and frustrating weekend. We have just bought water from Spar,” said Amanda Viljoen in a Facebook post.

“I think of families relying on electricity for health purposes, those with small babies and those who have just bought their monthly groceries,” said Facebook user Tonya Klingler Swiegers. “I know my meat and fish has all defrosted and gone to waste. A lot of money wasted all round for everyone,” she said.

“We’ve just bought groceries for the whole month, I guess it’s potatoes and pap for the rest of the month,” said Corrie Cornelia Louw in a Facebook post.

“Seriously, the Msunduzi Municipality will have to reimburse us. But who keeps all their slips for groceries? So what do we do? We and many other families do not have the financial means to buy an entire month’s worth of groceries again,” she said.

“Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse,” said Facebook user Lungelo Khumalo.

Ntokozo Molefe said in a Facebook post that maintenance is not done on essential infrastructure in the city. 

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  power outages

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