After a 33-hour blackout, power returned to Noordgesig last night – but not before it was claimed that several residents had died when medical equipment failed.
The Soweto neighbourhood has lost power for several days in the last few weeks, residents said. The latest outage started at about 11am on Tuesday and lasted until about 8.30 last night.
Several residents said the latest outage, which came during a dip in temperature, had left several members of the community dead after nebulisers and an oxygen machine stopped working. The Star could not confirm the deaths.
According to City Power, Noordgesig’s electricity problems began when the suburb of Pennyville next door was put onto the Noordgesig circuits.
“Pennyville is a newly reticulated area, and while we were busy installing the new circuits, we had to put it on the Noordgesig circuit,” said spokesman Louis Pieterse. “This caused an overload.”
The latest cuts were blamed on cable theft and damage caused by a contractor working in the area.
As the power outage continued into a second day, residents yesterday afternoon hauled branches, tyres, rocks and plastic police barricades onto Main Road.
Several residents were injured when police fired rubber bullets. One man was shot in the face at close range, members of the community said.
SAPS provincial spokeswoman Captain Katlego Mogale said police had responded to protect passing motorists when residents had allegedly started throwing rocks.
One man was arrested for public violence.
It was the first protest Noordgesig had seen in about 15 years, resident Mervin Fredericks said. But after a cold night without power, residents yesterday decided they had had enough.
“We’re trying to get our point across that we’re fed up,” Fredericks said.
Residents described washing with cold water before going to work and huddling under blankets to keep warm at night.
Lusandra Jonas said she scavenged in the local rubbish dump for wood because she could not afford gas. She cooked for her two children over a small fire outside her home. – ADAM SEGE and KRISTEN VAN SCHIE