The fire that broke out at ZESA’s Hwange Thermal Power Station on Wednesday due to diesel leak on Unit 1, has seen the country losing over 140MW leading to load-shedding in Matabeleland North and other parts of the country.
The fire, which is said to have damaged a boiler, sent clouds of smoke in the air, polluting the area which borders with the country’s largest wildlifesanctuary, Hwange National Park.
The unit is said to have been extensively damaged, raising fears of power shortages for some time in some parts of the country, with serious ripple effects to business.
According to ZESA Holdings executive chairman, Dr Sydney Gata, the fire broke out in the Unit 1 boiler at around 5pm as a result of a leak in the diesel supply line and lasted for about 40 minutes.
The company reported no casualties as a result of the mishap.
“ZESA Holdings wishes to advise its valued stakeholders that one of the units at Hwange Power Station caught fire around 1700hrs this evening (Wednesday). The fire broke out in the Unit 1 boiler as a result of a leak in the diesel supply line and lasted for about 40 minutes. There were no casualties arising from the fire,” said Dr Gata.
He said as a result of the incident 140MW had been lost resulting in load-shedding following the suspension of overload on units 2 and 5, which affected Hwange and some parts of the country.
“Although we lost 140MW leading to load shedding between 1730hrs and 2030hrs due to suspension of load on units 2 and 5, we are in the process of firing the two units to restore power supply to the national grid.
“Normal supply is expected to resume on Thursday (yesterday).”
Though Dr Gata could not shed light on the extent of the damage, sources say the unit was going to cause outages which was likely to further strain to power generation at Hwange Power Station.
“The damage is huge, the whole unit and parts of unit 2 were affected by the fire which was caused by over accumulation of pulverised fuel in the cables and some parts of the system.
“This means production of power is affected as we were already running on three units.”
There was a lot of anxiety among the workers who felt the incident was going to affect their prospects of getting substantial increments after declaring incapacitation last month.
“This incident has not only affected the company, but also cast a cloud of gloom and uncertainty among the workforce. Issues of salaries and job security also come into play,” said one worker.
Company engineers were hard at work attending to the remaining units to ensure efficient power generation.
Energy and Power Development Minister Zhemu Soda said the Zimbabwe Power Company was yet to conduct an assessment of how the blaze could have impacted in terms of long power supplies.
“Because of that disturbance, I’m yet to know what actually happened, but I just suspect Zesa must have cut off the power supplies from Hwange Power Station in order to ascertain the level of the damage and for the place to be safe to work in,” he said.
“But they assured me that load shedding will be for two hours while they are assessing the level of the damage.
“ It takes about five to six hours to cool the plant down if it is running. Like in that case, the plant was running, including that unit. It will need about six hours to cool before they start the assessment,” said Minister Soda.
He urged members of the members of the public to use the available power sparingly.