Long wait for joburg power

NAOMI Green is a search and rescue team member who braved the smoke, heat and mud going into tunnels underground to help restore electricity in the Johannesburg city centre yesterday.

But after all her efforts, residents and businesses situated close to the substation at the corner of Loveday and Bree streets will have to wait until the end of the week before electricity supply is restored.

Green, 31, was called by the Johannesburg Emergency Management Service (EMS) to help establish where the smoke was coming from.

The substation caught fire on Sunday at 7pm and lasted for about 18 hours.

Six fire engines blockaded the CBD yesterday, causing unbearable traffic jams as traffic lights were not working.

Tireless firefighters toiled all night using foam and water, but there was still smoke coming from different manholes in the city.

"The smoke was so concentrated and the temperature so high, but we were able to confirm that the fire had been extinguished," said Green.

"What puzzled everyone was that though the flames have been put down, there was smoke still coming from the tunnels," she said.

It was 12.40pm when Green went down in her gear, 18 hours after the firefighter had been trying to contain the gas and flames.

"It was dark underground, and as usual I thought about my two daughters. But I was not scared," said Green.

EMS spokesperson Percy Morokane said the workers had to use high expansion foam to stop the fire. But it later reignited and they had to use water.

He said that a team of health and environmental experts would go underground and confirm if it's safe for City Power technicians to start investigating the cause.

City Power director of engineering section Louis Pieterse said the damage was expected to run into millions. "At this stage we can't tell what the cause of the fire was but we suspect cable theft."

Jabulani Ngidi, 47, was forced to close his business, Satis Tavern, which lost R100000 yesterday.

Ngidi also runs a liquor wholesale from the premises.

"People normally come with hangovers on Monday hence I make such money," said Ngidi.

"I wish electricity comes back before Friday, if not my loss may amount to millions," cried Ngidi.