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Brixton substation fire compounds Joburg electricity and water outage woes

Brixton substation fire compounds Joburg electricity and water outage woes
Fire crews attend the blaze at Brixton substation on the evening of 11 June, 2023. (Photo: City Power Jhb)

A Brixton substation went up in flames on Sunday evening, aggravating Johannesburg’s existing water and electricity supply challenges. This follows the Soweto substation in Orlando feeder board that was burnt last Thursday, allegedly owing to theft and vandalism. Power has not been restored to some areas.

A fire at the Brixton substation in Johannesburg reduced every piece of equipment in the station to ashes, according to City Power.

City Power says it is in the process of appointing a contractor to conduct an overall assessment and give an estimation of the time required to complete repairs.

City Power Spokesperson Isaac Mangena said: “The substation burnt last night due to overload on the transformer.”

A contractor is on-site to determine the overall assessment and indicated that due to the extent of
the damage, repairs and restoration of the power supply could take up to 5 days if all goes
according to plan.

Brixton substation fire

Brixton substation went up in flames on Sunday evening. (Photo: City Power Jhb)

Brixton substation fire

The burned out shell of Brixton substation on Sunday evening. (Photo: City Power Jhb)

The fire has also impacted the water supply for residents supplied by Brixton Reservoir and tower zones which cover; Brixton, Mayfair, Hursthill, Jan Hofmeyer, Melville, Auckland Park and Helen Joseph Hospital.

However, on Sunday Johannesburg Water said in a statement on Sunday that a pumping unit was being organised for Helen Joseph Hospital.

The hospital has already been experiencing low water pressure since Thursday, 1 June with emergency departments and wards being cut off from the mains supply.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Massive infection risk’ at Helen Joseph Hospital after water pressure plummets

The Brixton incident is the second fire affecting Johannesburg residents’ supply of water and power in less than a week after the fire at a City Power substation in Soweto. 

Orlando Substation

The Orlando Substation on 8 June, 2023 in Soweto, South Africa. It is reported that the power outage was due to a fault which caused fire on the local feeder board. (Photo: Gallo Images/Fani Mahuntsi)

Five days in the dark and counting for some Joburg residents

Over and above rolling blackouts, the Soweto fire is said to have caused major outages, leading to a failure at City Powe’s Orlando switching station, which affected Rand Water’s Eikenhof pump station last Thursday.

While power has been restored in some areas, others have yet to be restored, having already been without a water supply for five consecutive days. According to Mangena, this is due to the extensive damage at the Soweto substation.

The affected areas include Pimville Zone 9, Ekhaya Orlando, Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, University of Johannesburg, Power Park, Doornkop military base, and Motsoaledi.

“The feeder board at the Soweto substation was burnt in the early hours of Thursday after high-tension jumpers were broken at the Orlando switching station. The broken jumpers led to a chain of events which resulted in a fire at the Soweto substation. Investigations point to theft and vandalism,” said Mangena.

Read in Daily Maverick: City Power Joburg has already spent 80% of its budget thanks to blackouts, thieves and vandals

He said City Power teams are currently working on connecting a new feeder board to the transformer.

Orlando Substation fire

The building which caught fire at Orlando Substation on 8 June, 2023 in Soweto, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images/Fani Mahuntsi)

“Over the weekend teams were able to lay and test cables running from the transformer to the feeder board, however, during pressure testing one cable was found to have a fault. This fault stems from the vandalism on Thursday where some cables were burnt and possibly cut. The cable fault has been repaired and the team is currently jointing the cable, more tests will resume which will indicate if there is a further fault.

“There are also three terminations to go and then cable jointing will be completed. The biggest element of the project was completed by the protection team over the weekend — earthing is critical to safeguard the substation from certain risks. The good news is that the pressure release valve on the transformer has been tested and cleared. The team is also repairing the breaker which was found to be faulty. The breaker will be fitted with a coil to ensure that the transformer trips in case of emergency, the coil also ensures that there is a signal which indicates when there is a fault.”

However, Mangena did not confirm when power will be restored in all affected areas. DM


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