Residential areas in Benoni on the East Rand have been without power for four days and may continue to have erratic power supply for the next few days as the Ekurhuleni metro scrambles to clear up the problem.
However, the latest power outage is one of many believed to be caused by the aging power infrastructure.
Meanwhile, residents have to shell out hundreds of rand a day to generate power themselves, or risk losing the contents of their freezers.
Parts of Northmead, Rynfield and surrounding areas have been without power since Thursday morning. Other parts in the same residential areas were also left without power since Sunday evening after their power lines could not carry the additional load.
Lornette Joseph, a DA councilor in the area, says the days-long power outage stems from a 132 kV oil-filled cable that broke down in the early hours of the morning.
“There was a leak on the line which left the oil level critical and caused the breakdown. The leak must be isolated and repaired before the oil is pumped back at a certain pressure.”
According to Joseph, crews from the metro’s energy department decided shortly after the breakdown to place some of the affected residents on other power lines in Farrarmere and Rynfield.
Although most of the areas had power by Sunday evening, residents were plunged into darkness moments later. Those who did not sit without power were then also left without power.
“The initial breakdown caused a kind of chain reaction. Now there are several power failures in Benoni that leave thousands of residents without power,” she says.
Joseph admits that the entire area’s infrastructure is severely outdated and does not appear to have been efficiently maintained.
“It is the metro’s responsibility to maintain the relevant power infrastructure; so I want to know how we got to this point,” she says.
“This error should never have happened as the system has two alarms that warn of the oil levels falling. One alarm should have gone off to say that the oil levels were low and another to warn that it had reached critical levels. None of the alarms went off.”
The metro had not responded to these allegations at the time of publication.
Joseph says the metro’s crews plan to pump the oil back into the power cable on Tuesday. However, this process can take up to 12 hours to complete.
Meanwhile, the power supply is extremely unstable.
“Residents are encouraged not to use all their devices at once when the power comes on, as this can overload the system and lead to further breakdowns.”
Lassie Vogel from Rynfield already had to throw away all her meat in her freezers because of the 100-hour power cut. This while other people are now scrambling to get their hands on generators.
“Those who have inverter batteries can no longer use them for a long time and some housing complexes now have to arrange additional security guards at great cost, as the gates and electric fencing do not work,” she says.
Apparently it often happens that residents have to do without power for two days. But this is the first time the power has been out for so long.
“We are all very upset about the whole situation,” says Vogel.
Water supply also affected
The power situation in Benoni also had an impact on the town’s water supply as usual.
According to Joseph, the Northmead water tower stopped pumping water when the 132 kV oil-filled cable failed.
“Some areas were without water for a while, but by Saturday the department managed to get the relevant water tower on another power line. This tower provides water again and to my knowledge everyone in Benoni has access to water again.”
There is one residential area, which consists largely of homes, which still does not have water. However, this deficit is not attributed to the power situation, but is instead laid at Rand Water’s door.
Joseph says some of the reservoirs in Benoni’s levels dropped badly on Friday after Rand Water failed to pump sufficient water to the reservoirs. The levels fell below 20% which caused the metro to be unable to pump the water to the relevant water towers and supply it to residents.
Although water supply has since been restored, a small part of Rynfield and Rynpark – which are all homes – still do not have water.
It is unknown what is causing the water outage, but technicians are believed to be on the scene to locate the fault. Meanwhile, Joseph arranged for water tankers to be deployed to the areas twice a day. A designated tanker will also unload water directly at the homes.
“We realize the situation is not ideal, but residents can be assured that the metro is working unceasingly to correct the problem,” she says.
Joseph encouraged residents of Benoni to find out who their ward councilor is and join the concerned councillor’s WhatsApp group to receive further communication on the state of affairs.
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