Parts of Zimbabwe and most of neighbouring Zambia suffered a massive blackout for about 10 hours on Friday, as a fault crippled the hydro-electric dam that supplies most of the countries’ power.
A breakdown at Kariba dam disrupted the entire electrical grid and caused problems at secondary stations, said Fullard Gwasira, a spokesperson for the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA).
“We had a system disturbance this morning in Kariba leading to loss of power in the country,” he told AFP.
“The systems disturbance has resulted in loss of power from Kariba North, South and Kafuwe gorge (in Zambia). This system disturbance resulted in the loss of 736 megawatts which has resulted in some parts of the country and Zambia not having electricity.”
Zimbabwe only generates a total of 900 megawatts of power, and needs about 2100 megawatts to keep the lights on across the country.
About 10 hours later, five of the six units at Kariba had been restored.
“One unit is still down until Sunday, so there will be continuous blackouts in some parts of the country,” Gwasira said.
Most of Harare lost power for the day, leading to gridlock throughout the city as traffic lights stopped working.
All of the Zambian capital Lusaka lost power and national radio went off the air as electricity in most of the country disappeared for about 10 hours.
“There was a fault at Kariba dam power station, which affected almost the entire country,” said Lucy Zimba of Zambia’s state power company. She said engineers were still trying to determine what caused the fault.
The blackouts came one week after Zimbabwe authorities had assured the country that power would run continuously through the World Cup.
Gwasira said engineers were “attending to the problem and trying to find what led to this system disturbance”.
Zimbabwe’s ageing power generation stations have been facing growing technical problems as a result of neglect due to years of economic crisis.