Heavy rains have battered Zimbabwe’s Hwange district, leaving over 50 families in temporary shelters as their homes were under water, as well as flooding coal mines and the country’s biggest thermal power station – sparking fears of further power cuts in the coming week.
Zimbabwe – which is importing power from South Africa to assist with its power supply gap – is already experiencing 18-hour electricity blackouts following drastically reduced power generation at Kariba dam as a result of receding water levels for power generation.
The Kariba Lake is designed to operate between levels 475.50m and 488.50m (with 0.70m freeboard) for hydropower generation. On Friday the Zambezi River Authority, which manages water use for power generation, said the lake level continued receding, dropping by 6cm during the first 12 days of January 2020, before rising to close at 476.62m (7.77% usable storage) on 14 January 2020. Last year on the same date, the lake level was 482.12m.
This means the bulk of Zimbabwe’s power now comes from imports and Hwange Thermal power station, which has now been hit by floods.
Heavy rains of up to 139mm pounded Hwange Town over the weekend in just three hours, resulting in flash floods which damaged homes and property, including a stockpile of coal at Hwange Power Station.
The rains also left the power station flooded.
Energy Minister Fortune Chasi took to Twitter to provide an update on the situation at Hwange.
“The weather has conspired against us. Hwange power station coal plant flooded. Power station now down to zero megawatts. 400MW lost. Zesa working to recover,” he wrote.
Power cuts have been blamed for lost production hours for most businesses in the southern African country.