By Hoandi !Gaeb Mariental The welcome rains of the past few days in southern Namibia brought business at Mariental, the commercial hub of the Hardap Region, to a virtual standstill on Friday after lightning destroyed the main electricity supply substation outside the town. In a related incident, heavy thunderstorms accompanied by strong winds also left homeless some 37 households at Gibeon, about 68 km south of Mariental. The total black-out at the normally busy town occurred at around 19h00 on Friday, forcing shops and other business houses to close on Saturday, while emergency services, (e.g. hospitals) had to use own electricity supply equipment. The electricity supply to the town could only be restored at around 18h00 on Saturday. Local banks only allowed limited business on Saturday, while motorists, including those travelling to and from South Africa through Mariental could also only be assisted through emergency generators at some local service stations. Mariental Town Clerk Paul Nghiwilepo told New Era that he received many calls from worried residents at the town about perishable foodstuffs in fridges as technicians from Nampower and the municipality battled around the clock to restore the power supply. However, he said in the event of serious damage, the municipality was ready to assist residents by issuing standard letters that could be forwarded to insurance companies for possible claims. He said the same Nampower substation was also destroyed, by lightning, some three years ago. At Gibeon in the early hours of Thursday, heavy thunderstorms accompanied by strong winds blew off roofs from houses, while some shacks in the informal settlements at the village were totally destroyed. According to the acting village secretary, Erich Klukowski, about 37 families were left destitute, but although slow, help is coming in from other parts of the country. He said workers from the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development and the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry started to rebuild the structures. “We are experiencing problems to get the material to Gibeon in time, but where we can, we are using old material to ease the plight of the homeless people,” he said. Meanwhile, farmers in the Hardap Region are predicting an above-average rainfall for this season. They say it was last in 1974 when more than 600 mm rainfall was recorded on some farms in the area. So far, many farms have already recorded more than 200 mm of rain since the beginning of January and all indications are that more rain will fall.
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