Thieves turn off the lights in Mombasa

Tuesday August 2 2011

Kenya Power and Lighting Company workers carry underground cables that were destroyed at Kipevu plant on August 2, 2011.

Photo/LABAN WALLOGA/NATION Kenya Power and Lighting Company workers carry underground cables that were destroyed at Kipevu plant on August 2, 2011. 

By NATION TEAM [email protected]

The whole of Mombasa was in darkness on Tuesday following a power blackout that paralysed operations.

Many businesses and offices remained shut in the morning, while others turned to back-up generators to power their work.

Power supply in the central business district was restored around midday, but it was marked by fluctuations and intermittent disruptions.

The blackout occurred around 2am and was attributed to theft of a battery charger at Kipevu plant.

This left the machines unable to monitor faults, resulting in a fire, which destroyed supply cables before it was put out by Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and Mombasa Municipal Council fire fighters.

Kenya Power managing director Joseph Njoroge flew to the town to oversee the restoration of supply, but he too was lost for words at the losses caused by the outage.

“It was very unfortunate for somebody to steal such a gadget, which is crucial for our operations.

“This has caused a blackout in the whole of Mombasa Island, South and North Coast areas,” he told journalists at the Kipevu power plant.

Vandalism problems

Mr Njoroge said the company had restored supply to the Coast Provincial General Hospital, KPA, Kenya Pipeline Company, Kenya Petroleum Refineries, Bamburi Cement and Digo Road in the Central Business District.

“I don’t want to pre-empt what the police are going to tell us. Let them finish their work. But we have been facing vandalism problems in the country.”

Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association chairman Mohamed Hersi said the blackout had dealt a major blow to hotels.

“Hotels resorted to generators which are literally fuel guzzlers. The power failure comes at a time when fuel prices have hit the roof,” Mr Hersi said.

Pubs, Entertainment and Restaurant Association of Kenya chief executive officer Sam Ikwaye asked Kenya Power to come up with a permanent solution to power outages.

Kenya Chamber of Commerce and Industry Mombasa branch chairman James Mureu called for a more proactive response to such crises.

“The company should know that impromptu blackouts cause destruction of very expensive equipment resulting in massive losses by businesses,” Mr Mureu said by phone from Nairobi.

Reported by Mwakera Mwajefa, Mathias Ringa and Gitonga Marete