Cable fault plunges city into darkness

HARARE - Just when we thought five-day blackout was over in central Harare, the power went out again. A new high voltage emergency cable that was supposed to restore power to the capital failed again on Saturday, trapping people in elevators and snarling up traffic.
Power utility, Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority, brought the new cable online and declared the electricity shortage over. Hours later, the lights went out.

A faulty sensor on the new cable that was “too finely tuned” tripped a circuit breaker and shut off the line, a ZESA spokesman said. By the end of the afternoon it had been fixed and the line was back in service.

“It is what you hate to happen,” said the spokesperson, admitting the power company was deeply embarrassed by the failure.

The cable fault came amid intensifying power outages, known here as load-shedding, where households lose up to 10 hours of power daily.

About a fourth of downtown Harare, including government offices and high-rise office buildings, were blacked out. In the city centre, there was the sight of darkened shops and the sound of generators kicking back to life.

“One week of power outages in the city centre is just unacceptable,” said Bernard Munda, who spoke to this reporter in a blacked out downtown shop.  

ZESA said when the overhead line tripped out; it took with it several generators. Within an hour, some generators had been revived, leaving about 15 percent of the city without power.

A second emergency cable, also strung from a suburban power substation, was to come on line Monday. Downtown businesses estimated the power crisis cost them billions in lost business in the past week along with losses in tourism or international investment and trade.

The first cable feeding into the commercial heart of Harare first failed last week on Tuesday. It is not known what caused the power cables to fail, and experts say it may take up to a year to find out. The government is investigating and expected to have a report out.

ZESA has suggested the cables broke down as a result of record-breaking summer heat and huge power demand. The company says the dry soil could not carry heat away from the cables, contributing to the failure. – Chief Reporter

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