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PLEA FOR PATIENCE

Central Karoo towns in critical scramble for water, generators after storms kill power supply

Central Karoo towns in critical scramble for water, generators after storms kill power supply
On Saturday, 3 February gale-force winds and rain damaged power lines in the Karoo, leaving several towns in the Northern and Western Cape without power. (Photo: Eskom)

Eskom is pleading for patience during the recovery operation in Karoo towns affected by a days-long power outage. Gift of the Givers have stepped in to provide water and the Western Cape government has sent generators so residents can access critical services such as electricity, health and water. Meanwhile, Eskom’s operation includes hauling in a 55-tonne crane and a 20-tonne jackhammer.

On Tuesday Eskom said plans to repair infrastructure that was severely damaged by inclement weather in parts of the Karoo over the weekend were “well under way”, with a number of teams working on complex operations to restore electricity supply to the affected towns. 

Since Saturday, parts of the Karoo, including towns in the Northern and Western Cape, have been without electricity following a power outage. At the time Eskom said it had been caused by gale-force winds and heavy rain which damaged the Laingsburg/Touwsrivier 132kV power lines. Many municipalities were affected. 

The utility said on Tuesday that while some customers in Sutherland and Buffelspoort had been brought back online, others in parts of Sutherland, Roggeveld, Laingsburg, Ladismith, Leeu Gamka, Swartberg, Merweville, Matjiesfontein, Prince Albert, Fraserburg and surrounding areas were still without power. 

Karoo power outage

Gift of the Givers distributes 5lt bottles of water to Laingsburg Hospital and clinics. (Photo: Supplied)

“Eskom has sourced three 315kVA generators which are available for the temporary use of critical and essential loads. Specialised equipment, which includes a 55-tonne crane and a 20-tonne jackhammer, is required for rock drilling and planting of the electricity structures. Additional construction teams and contractors from the Eastern Cape have been called in to support the recovery operation,” said Eskom general manager in the Cape Coastal Cluster, Mbulelo Yedwa. 

Load shedding exemption requests were being considered – where the network and the load allowed – particularly for towns supporting the affected areas while the recovery was in progress. These included the Beaufort West Municipality which was exempted so it could support water-provision operations in affected Central Karoo towns. 

“The estimated time for the full restoration of electricity will be communicated in due course,” said Eskom and apologised for the inconvenience. It also pleaded with affected customers to remain patient while the recovery operation was in progress. 

5 litre bottles of water handed out

Humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers has already sent aid to some of the hardest-hit towns, such as Laingsburg, Prince Albert, Leeu Gamka and Merweville. It said requests had been for water, since most of the towns’ boreholes could not function without electricity. The organisation will be distributing 5l bottled water to all major hospitals, clinics, old age homes and schools in affected areas. 

The Western Cape government said on Tuesday that Eskom had briefed a meeting with senior provincial government officials on plans to restore power, while the Provincial Disaster Management Centre had also briefed them on plans to help residents to access critical services such as water, health and education, and ensure food security. 

Gift of the Givers teams will distributing 5l bottles of water to all the major hospitals, clinics, old age homes and schools in the affected areas. (Photo: Supplied)

MEC for local government, environmental affairs and development planning Anton Bredell said the provincial government would focus on essential services such as drinking water and wastewater, as well as the functioning of public services such as schools and hospitals. “We need to ensure our hospitals and schools have water and sufficient diesel to run generators. We are also sending generators to institutions that do not currently have generators,” he said. 

western cape city of cape town legal

Western Cape MEC for local government Anton Bredell. (Photo: Adrian de Kock)

A generator had been sent from the Overberg District Municipality and was being installed in Laingsburg for water treatment, and one from the Garden Route Municipality was being installed in Matjiesfontein on Tuesday, while another from Bitou Municipality would be taken to Prince Albert on Tuesday for water provision.  

Generators from the Western Cape health department would be installed in central business areas such as Prince Albert and Laingsburg. Eskom had also sent generators to Laingsburg, Prince Albert and Ladismith. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Eskom news

Bredell said traffic services were on hand to help with logistics as “abnormal” vehicles were preparing to transport needed materials to the Karoo, to which Eskom’s specialist teams were on route. 

“We are acknowledging your frustration and anxiety. We are supporting Eskom in every way possible to get power back as fast as possible with your safety and well-being central to each action we take,” he said. DM

UPDATE: In a statement on Wednesday, Eskom said customers could expect their electricity supply to be fully restored by next week – on Thursday, 15 February 2024. 

Eskom said its recovery operation was in full swing in the Central Karoo, with all teams on site working around the clock in the repair operation in which specialised equipment and additional resources have been received. Operations were currently under way to secure and anchor the existing line supported by local Eskom construction teams.

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Graeme J says:

    As a financial supporter of Gift of the Givers, I think the organisation does wonderful work.

    I just wish our central government was hanging its head in shame at the continued lack of appropriate response to disasters and resource management.

    • Verity Engel says:

      As much as we appreciate gift of the givers, we the ordinary people are not receiving any help, im almost 8 months pregnant I managed to buy a last bottle of water the shops are empty and so is my pocket, bought my Feb meats and foods on Friday for the month ahead, January was in itself a difficult month especially with back to school supplies, here i sit without water and all my meats and some food items went off so Feb looks like a dark bitter month ahead. What can i eat with water and no money also they’re not helping us citizens we lost so much still in the dark. #Ladismith

  • Eus de Clerk says:

    Gift of the Givers should govern this country. They’re always willing to help.

  • Trevor Gray says:

    Gift of the Givers are absolute lifesavers!

  • Paul Caiger says:

    I am sure part of the reason for the collapse of the power lines is lack of maintenance and old infrastructure. Same old story under Eskom and the ANC incompetence . Probably the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Vote DA, it’s SAs only hope of recovery.

  • Geoff Coles says:

    Thank you Eskom, thank you ANC

  • Verity Engel says:

    Gift if the givers are handing out water to hospitals,schools and clinics etc, but what about us the people running around for water and foods that went off? I’m pregnant and me, as well as pensioners who received sassa grant bought meats for the coming month, yet our foods and meats went off, i managed to get a last bottle of water yesterday, January was a long difficult month in itself, looking into February it seems a dark month ahead without food and water, what about us?

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