Update | Parts of Pietermaritzburg in dark after substation fire

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A blaze erupted at Msunduzi’s Retief primary substation on Wednesday morning.
A blaze erupted at Msunduzi’s Retief primary substation on Wednesday morning.

Yet another Msunduzi primary substation burst into flames on Wednesday, leaving parts of the CBD and areas such as Chase Valley, Athlone and Montrose in the dark.

Grey’s Hospital, the Liberty Midlands Mall and Invesco Centre were also affected.

City spokesperson Ntobeko Ngcobo said the blaze erupted at the Retief primary substation at around 8.30 am and firefighters responded quickly and were able to douse it swiftly.

By Wednesday afternoon the cause of the fire was still unknown as electricians had to wait for the equipment to cool down before they could fully assess the damage.

“I did stress upon the general manager [Cele] that we must activate contractors if need be because we might not have the necessary capacity internally.”
Deputy Msunduzi Mayor Manilal Inderjit

Deputy Mayor Manilal Inderjit, who visited the site with the head of infrastructure services Vusi Cele, said the flames did not engulf the entire substation thanks to the firefighters’ swift response.

“Once it cools down we will be able to immediately switch on some of the areas that went out. We also assess the extent of the damage on the other side then decide about the isolation and ring-fencing that will have to be done.”

The City’s electricity team also had to remove water, which was left from the dousing of the fire, and clean the electricity board in preparation for the switching on and repairs.

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Inderjit said they would not want to leave residents and businesses without electricity on New Year’s Eve so they might have to try bypassing. He said they were already looking into getting spares from the similar substation in Northdale.

“I did stress upon the general manager [Cele] that we must activate contractors if need be because we might not have the necessary capacity internally.”

“The municipality is appealing to motorists travelling along Boshoff Street to be cautious as traffic lights are also affected. Please treat those traffic lights as four-way stops, remain calm, respectful and extra-vigilant of pedestrians.”
Msunduzi spokesperson Ntobeko Ngcobo

Asked if they suspected either arson or vandalism or the lack of maintenance of the city’s ageing electricity infrastructure, Inderjit said it was too soon to tell.

Both Inderjit and Ngcobo said the estimated restoration time for the affected areas would be communicated once the assessment of the damage had been completed.

“The municipality is appealing to motorists travelling along Boshoff Street to be cautious as traffic lights are also affected. Please treat those traffic lights as four-way stops, remain calm, respectful and extra-vigilant of pedestrians,” said Ngcobo.

When one of Msunduzi’s major substations, the Masons primary, caught fire in July, some areas were without electricity for several days.

The City ended up having to get a mobile power supply unit and put the affected areas on load reduction. That blaze was suspected to be an act of arson.


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