February 8, 2024

Premier & Minister provide update on mass power outage in Central Karoo, Garden Route, and Overberg

Central Karoo

On Wednesday, 7 February Premier Alan Winde and Western Cape Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs, and Development Planning, Anton Bredell, gave an update during a media briefing on the coordinated efforts to restore electricity to towns in the Central Karoo, Garden Route, and Overberg regions. They were joined by Colin Deiner, Head of the (PDMC) and Eskom’s General Manager for the Cape Coast Cluster, Mbulelo Yedwa.

Mr Yedwa indicated that the utility is aiming to fully restore power to affected communities in the Karoo by Thursday, 15 February. However, he stressed repair teams are working flat out to complete this complex task earlier. Eskom has now also advised that in the Overberg region, power was restored last night.

“We have been offering all the support we can to Eskom and will continue to do so until every single household and business in the Central Karoo, Garden Route, and Overberg areas have electricity restored following the weekend’s stormy conditions. We are monitoring the situation closely and receiving regular updates from Eskom and ensuring that if there is any support we can offer, we step in immediately to help expedite repairs.

Municipalities in affected areas are also being assisted wherever possible by the WCG. Premier Winde also thanked civil society organisations for stepping in to help.

In the Karoo region, the towns of Fraserburg, Ladismith, Laingsburg, Leeu Gamka, Matjiesfontein, Merweville, Prince Albert, Roggeveld, and Swartberg are still without power.

Mr Deiner said the PDMC’ s Joint Operating Centre (JOC) is coordinating all disaster management efforts and is giving assistance to Eskom, where needed.

In addition to these measures, critical services are being protected as far as possible:

  • Health:
    • All hospitals in affected areas are running on generators;
    • The reestablishment of a borehole at Laingsburg health facility is being investigated to provide non-potable water to the facility; and
    • 15 000 litres of water have been transported by the WCG to support hospitals in Prince Albert and Laingsburg.
  • Education
    • Nine (9) schools have been impacted in the Karoo area ;
    • No school has been closed due to the current situation; and
    • While the supply of water remains a risk, schools have received water to ensure that learning can continue.
  • Food security
    • The Department of Agriculture continues to conduct assessments and additional funding for diesel and water have been approved;
    • Various departments and stakeholders are meeting daily to discuss the impact on food security; the impact on businesses and ways in which to support affected businesses;
    • Without consistent electricity the ability to keep food cold has become a risk. Therefore, finding solutions to maintain the cold chain has become pivotal; and
    • Environmental Health Practitioners have been deployed to investigate food quality at stores to ensure that residents do not become sick from consuming food which has gone off.

Premier Winde stated, “This has been a mammoth task, but we will continue to provide support to all affected towns for as long as is necessary. Tragically one person has died and another has been hospitalised in Leeu Gamka after it is suspected that they were overcome by fumes from a generator.”

Premier Winde and Minister Bredell offered their heartfelt condolences to the family and loved ones and urged residents to adhere to safety guidelines when using alternative energy sources.

The Premier thanked everyone who has stepped in to help, saying, “It buoys me knowing that when disasters like this strike, we are able to rally support from all quarters with the common purpose of helping communities, particularly the most vulnerable. This is a very difficult time and my thoughts are with them daily.”

Premier Winde and the Minister, as well as officials at the PDMC, have been holding daily meetings with Eskom and other stakeholders to receive regular updates on this recovery operation. At this morning’s meeting, Eskom confirmed that faults to the Hawston-Farmer 1 line in the Overstrand have been restored. But to safely return power to the system, a “cold start” is necessary. This may lead to intermittent outages, but these will be addressed as and where they happen.

Work on the collapsed line in the Karoo is progressing to schedule, with all the major material, equipment and contractors on the site. Minster Bredell confirmed that several large generators will be installed today in the business centres of Laingsburg, Prince Albert, and Ladismith:

  • Laingsburg will receive a 350kVA generator form the Provincial Department of Health and Wellness
  • Prince Albert will receive a 650kVA generator for the Provincial Department of Health and Wellness and a 315kVA generator from Eskom.
  • Ladismith will receive a 315kVA generator from Eskom, as well as a 110kVA generator from the Garden Route District Municipality to support their drinking water system.

“These generators will enable us to provide limited power to parts of these towns,” he said.

Minister Bredell added that needs assessments are continuing in the affected communities and the WCG is coordinating relief donations to vulnerable citizens. He continued, “We want to thank all entities and individuals who are working with us. A special word of thanks to Gift of the Givers, Heal our Land, Vodacom, MTN, AfriForum, and DHL for their support thus far.”