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Eskom power lines. Archive photo: Brent Meersman

Suburbs across the east of Johannesburg have been without electricity since Saturday morning after a substation caught fire. Residents are not sure when power will return.

The Observatory substation was gutted in a fire that began at 3am on Saturday morning. City Power has been working around the clock to restore power. The utility has told residents that they are working on a seven day turnaround to return power.

The suburbs affected include Bellevue, Bruma, Cyrildene, De Wetshof, Bezuidenhout Valley, Kensington Observatory, Malvern and Troyville.

Councillor for ward 66 Carlos Da Rocha said this is the biggest outage he’s seen. “It has affected four wards.”

This recent outage is one of many that has plagued Johannesburg recently according to Da Rocha, who has been a councillor for 13 years. Since the start of loadshedding he estimates that 90% of his time is spent dealing with electricity outages within his ward.

“You are getting outages caused by rain, loadshedding, vandalism, just too many things,” said Da Rocha.

As the outage continues, residents have been scrambling to find dry ice to fill their refrigerators or trying to source or hire generators.

On Queen Street, a major thoroughfare that runs through Kensington, restaurants and businesses are feeling the effects of an outage that has now entered day three.

Nico Brandt, the owner of a restaurant called Cut and Craft, said that he was surviving by running generators. So far his fuel bill is R20,000.

“The rest of Queen Street has been hit bad,” he said, adding that some businesses had closed for the duration of the outage.

Brandt said that with the prospect of more outages he was investing in a bigger generator that will cost him at least R200,000. This will bring the total amount spent on generators for his restaurant to R300,000.

City Power said it has not found the cause of the fire.

Part of the restoration plan is laying cables from the Observatory substation to Bellevue.

Work on repairing the substation was 55% complete, City Power said, and as yet the utility has not encountered any major challenges.

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