Power cuts stop work, dim homes

MEGAN MILLER AND ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY
Last updated 05:00 28/12/2012
hinau place
JOHN BISSET/ Fairfax NZ
CALLED OUT: Firefighters were called to Hinau Place yesterday after reports of a loud bang and residents experiencing power problems.

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Power failures darkened homes and stopped business in its tracks in Timaru yesterday afternoon, possibly due to damage caused during the installation of cable for high-speed broadband.

The lights went out around the High St area at 1.10pm. Alpine Energy technicians believed the problem was due to an underground high voltage cable being damaged during Chorus' installation of fibre optic cable for high speed broadband, chief executive Andrew Tombs said.

"Sometimes a damaged high voltage cable can hold in there for a while," he said. "That's what we suspect. We could be wrong, we could be right."

At about the same time, people in Hinau Place in Glenwood reported hearing a loud "boom" immediately followed by a power cut. Timaru firefighters arrived at the scene with two trucks after a resident called for help.

Mr Tombs said the Hinau Place incident was apparently caused by a failure at a meter box, and might have involved a small fire at the box or nearby. He was not certain whether the problem was on a customer's property or was part of the Alpine Energy network.

The two incidents were probably not related, he said.

The High St area failure left Smith City in the dark. Staff escorted customers off the premises as electrical stock went dead.

VINZ technicians on the corner of William St stood about bored, as did John Bradley Hyundai employees in King St next door.

VINZ vehicle inspector John Garrick said they could not even use the phone as it was attached to the computer system.

"We have no jack, no brake machines, and we're not going home until the roller door comes down," he said.

The Timaru Herald understands Couplands Stock Feed workers could not load trucks due to the outage and Chipmunks was temporarily closed.

Just one block down on the corner of King and Heaton streets, businesses did not appear to be affected. Staff at Timaru Hospital said the medical facility was not affected.

Power had been restored to much of the High St area by about 3.30pm. At 4.45pm, about 100 customers were still without electricity. Mr Tombs expected all power to be restored by 6pm.

Technicians would have to excavate the damaged cable and replace it with new cable, he said.

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- The Timaru Herald

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