Cape Town, Johannesburg Hit by Blackouts

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JOHANNESBURG Cape Town and parts of Johannes-burg were hit by a widespread blackout early yesterday after faults on transmission lines, local media reported, highlighting power worries in Africa’s biggest economy. A spokesman for state utility Escom, quoted by news agency Sapa, said by 0530 GMT large parts of the Western Cape province, which includes Cape Town, were still without electricity. A resident in Paarl, some 50 km north of central Cape Town, said by 0940 GMT power had still not been restored. “It came back up at 11 o’clock but went down again,” she told Reuters by telephone. SABC radio reported that power had been restored to several parts of the greater Cape Town area but not the inner city, as officials urged residents to use electricity sparingly in order to ease pressure on the network. The situation looked likely to hit thousands of commuters on Monday, with rail operator Metrorail saying it expected to be without power for another day and had suspended its services in Cape Town. “We’ve got no choice. We’ve got no power,” Metrorail spokeswoman Riana Scott told Reuters. Businesses at one of Cape Town’s biggest tourist attractions, the Waterfront mall, were forced to open about two hours later than usual at 9 am (0700 GMT), a resident said. SABC also reported that across Johannesburg, several suburbs were receiving power “intermittently” but Johannesburg Metrorail officials said its services would not be affected. An outage in one of the country’s energy plants sparked power failures throughout South Africa on Saturday, forcing the Koeberg nuclear plant north of Cape Town to shut down. Escom spokesman Fani Zulu told Sapa Sunday’s blackouts had nothing to do with the closure of the nuclear plant. Africa’s only nuclear-fired station was shut down on three separate occasions in November last year due to a nearby fire and technical problems, causing widespread blackouts across the Cape Town region it serves. Escom said last month one of the two units at the nuclear facility would be shut down for at least three months after it suffered severe damage from a misplaced bolt. Escom said on Saturday with both reactors now inactive, more power cuts were likely over the next few days. South Africa has in recent years suffered several blackouts owing to its ageing electricity infrastructure, especially in the financial capital Johannesburg. – Nampa/Reuters