South Africa hit by 3-day blackout amid worker strike

State-owned utility Eskom extends rolling power blackouts from Friday to Sunday

South Africa hit by 3-day blackout amid worker strike

By Hassan Isilow

JOHANNESBURG (AA) - Long-hour power cuts began in South Africa on Friday triggered by a wages-related strike by workers at the country's state-owned electricity provider.

The firm, Eskom, said it was forced to shot power off for extended hours because some of its employees were on strike. The power cuts, expected to last through the weekend, are likely to affect businesses in Africa's most industrialized economy.

"Due to the ongoing unprotected labor action, Eskom is compelled to take precautionary actions to conserve emergency generation reserves," the utility said in a statement.

It added that "load shedding" would have to be implemented in some places starting from 11.00 a.m., local time, until midnight on Friday, while residents will only have power until 5 a.m. over the weekend.

Eskom, which generates over 90% of the country's electricity, has been struggling to meet demand and has been implementing "stage-two" outages for days.

Most of the output from the utility's aging power plant array is coal-fired, with the facilities in need of maintenance.

"We appeal to all South Africans to help limit the impact of the shortages by continuing to reduce the usage of electricity and to switch off all non-essential items," Eskom stated.

The utility said it currently had 2,766 megawatts on planned maintenance, while another 17,395 megawatts were unavailable due to breakdowns.

South Africans experienced its worst power blackouts in 2008.

The government is now considering whether to allow independent power producers to operate in order to reduce the energy demand-supply gap.

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