Residents left in the cold as power substation burns

Network overloaded due to electricity theft – Eskom

A fire broke out at a substation in Zola, Soweto, causing an outage in the area. It is not known how long it will take to restore power
A fire broke out at a substation in Zola, Soweto, causing an outage in the area. It is not known how long it will take to restore power

Mthembiseni Khanyeza, a fast food business owner, looks defeated as firefighters battle to put out a fire that engulfed a substation a few metres from his house. 

"This issue of electricity will have a major impact on my business because I won't be able to cook and I have just recently stocked my meat," he told Sowetan as he closed his fridge, packed with uncooked meat. 

Khanyeza's household was among hundreds that were left without power in Soweto yesterday after a fire broke out at a substation in Zola yesterday morning. 

"I know tomorrow it will be fine, but I am concerned about the following days since we were not informed as to when they will fix the substation. I would really appreciate it if Eskom were to act fast considering that we provide for our families," said Khanyeza.

He said he spent a lot of money last week to buy stock which is supposed to last him for a week, however, the ice in his fridge started melting in the afternoon, a few hours after the blackout. 

The blackout affected areas such as Dobsonville, Emndeni, Jabulani, Moletsane, Mofolo North, Naledi, Tladi, Zola and Zondi.

Residents were left in limbo as they looked for other alternatives to keep their families warm while others resorted to braziers.

Vusi Nkosi, a pensioner from Zola North, said: "This problem will lead us into using unsafe measures to keep our families warm until they decide to fix electricity."

According to ward 51 councillor Bhekukwenza Mngadi, the fire broke out at about 8.30am in the morning. He said this was after three explosions that sounded like a bomb went off.

The power utility said it was not yet known when electricity would be restored.

Eskom also said as demand for electricity rises, the issue of network overloading has resurfaced in some areas due to electricity theft. Eskom said to date it has replaced 400 transformers damaged by network overloading since January. 

The utility said it was also faced with illegal connections, network equipment theft, vandalism, meter bypasses and tampering, unauthorised network operations and purchasing electricity from illegal vendors.

It further said there were about 2,500 transformers which are frequently overloaded across the country and are at the risk of failing.

“Overloaded transformers as a result of electricity theft present a serious risk to human life. The time, funds and manpower used to replace these transformers could have been utilised to improve the reliability of our network, electrify more communities, improve the experience of our paying customers, and create more jobs,” saidSA , the acting group executive for Eskom Distribution.

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