Power restored to parts of Cambridge

MATT BOWEN AND ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 09:52 19/04/2013

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Power has been restored to parts of Cambridge after the explosion at Transpower's Cambridge substation early this morning left 12,000 homes and businesses in the dark.

Sharon Pierce from Victoria St butcher The Meat Company said power was back in her store and they would now have to count the cost of the blackout.

''We are glad it is back on because with our chillers we didn't want to risk losing too much of our stock but we'll have to check it all before we put it out again.

Crews  worked around the clock to restore power to the town. Customers were without power since midnight following the explosion, which happened at 11.53pm, said Transpower corporate communications manager Rebecca Wilson.

Ms Wilson said staff were alerted ''in real time'' and responded to the substation on Watkins Road immediately but had to wait about an hour for smoke to clear from the explosion.

While a full investigation is planned, Ms Wilson said the main priority was to get power restored.

Only eight staff could work on the repair at any one time due to the confined nature of the affected space.

When asked to describe the area affected she said to think a home switch board and times that by a thousand. Ms Wilson was not aware of any issues at the station leading up to the explosion which she described as ''a rare occurrence''.

She said Waipa District Council had advised people to conserve water and waste water because their pumps run on electricity.

Many businesses in Cambridge ground to a halt without power.

It is understood Hautapu School is also closed for the day.

A local supermarket continued to operate on generator power and opened the doors of their coolstore for medication that required refrigeration.

''Anything that needs cooling has gone to the supermarket coolstore and that's quite good,'' Cambridge pharmacist Grant Clayton said. ''We didn't know about that so we found out that that's what we could do.''

Mr Clayton was in his store during the blackout but the town was barren and he was not expecting any customers.

''There is virtually nothing open because you can't use EFTPOS so even if you had customers. Without that you can't sell anything.''

He said Cambridge was a ghost town.

''The doctors aren't open. They can't operate either. There's nothing open. You'd think a bomb had gone off.

The Countdown Cambridge store was also up and running today on generator power after the team mobilised at around 3.30am.

Z Energy Cambridge operates 24 hours a day seven days a week but the outage forced them to shut up shop just after midnight. Site manager Ian Weston said all the pumps run on electricity and they had no choice but to close the doors.

''The local bakeries and hot bread shops, those staff have already gone home - it's across the board really.''

Fonterra Hautapu site manager Dave Young said they're diverting milk to a neighbouring factory to be processed.

"At this time of the year we have spare capacity at many of our sites," he said.

TOWN PULLS TOGETHER

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Cambridge Chamber of Commerce chief executive Raewyn Jones said the town was lifted by the community spirit shown throughout the blackout.

Cafes were open serving tea, coffee and soup while Cambridge butcher The Meat Company held a barbecue on the footpath to get rid of perishable stock.

''Obviously their stock won't keep so rather than lose it they've chosen to give it away. That's lovely to see.''

Small to medium traders would lose business but ''will get through it'' but she had concerns for some farmers who might not have back-up systems in place.

''That would be a considerable concern for them.

''It is a good reminder to small and medium sized businesses that we need to have back-up plans in order.''

She said a days trading would be lost by Cambridge businesses and warned residents and businesses to unplug electrical devices from the wall to prevent damage. 

- Waikato

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