Cable thieves take out two suburbs

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iol pic wld india power out REUTERS A power cut nearly disrupted the National Energy Regulator of SA's announcement about electricity tariff hikes in Pretoria.

Durban - While most were asleep early on Monday, cable thieves were fervently at work, bringing an abrupt stop to Westville’s charging cellphones, automated electric appliances and of course, traffic lights.

At 3am, say eThekwini officials, a 132 000-volt cable feeding Blair Athol substation was hacked at and burnt as thieves attempted to make off with its valuable innards.

Most of Westville and Reservoir Hills was without power until about 11.30am, with homes and businesses bearing the brunt of the crime.

Without power, those working from home were stranded, such as business owner Wendy Bramley who set up a temporary office at Mugg and Bean. Her BlackBerry was her link to the world.

“I have two businesses that I run from home… we are at a complete standstill,” she said. “If I don’t have power tomorrow I will have to take my desktop PC to someone’s house.”

Bramley said the issue was not only the irritation of doing business in less than ideal circumstances, but the potential business lost, which could “not be quantified”.

Unlike Bramley, those with fixed businesses were worse off.

Store fronts were dark and doors were locked as shops closed, while those who tried to conduct business did the best they could.

KFC in Westville was serving customers with a generators humming in the background, and cashiers taking orders using pen and paper and adding up meal prices with hand-held calculators.

Power was still out by Monday afternoon in some parts of the suburb, and Deena Govender of eThekwini electricity said that the supply was expected to be restored by late Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning.

Govender added that an investigation would be conducted into the incident, and a case opened with the police. He also asked residents to use power sparingly.

“Cable theft and damage to cables by third parties working in our servitudes continue to be the biggest threat to keeping the power on in eThekwini.

“The supply to the University of KwaZulu-Natal is particularly [vulnerable] as 2km of 11 000-volt cable feeding the Westville campus was recently stolen in the vicinity of the M19.”

Municipal spokesman Thabo Mofokeng said the security features of substations were being enhanced. - The Mercury


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