The devastating floods that hit KwaZulu-Natal at the weekend and on Monday have knocked out 500 MTN towers, 400 Vodacom towers and 230 Telkom towers, the telecommunications operators said on Tuesday.
The heavy rains have caused significant damage to infrastructure and led to power outages across the region.
“Due to the serious nature of the outages, MTN has activated contingency plans for site restoration. However, access to many of the impacted sites remains a major challenge,” the operator said in a statement.
“The flooding in the KZN region has caused power outages at many of our sites and, while we have battery backup at many of the sites, these batteries have been depleted,” said MTN South Africa executive for corporate affairs Jacqui O’Sullivan in the statement.
“Our major challenge right now is gaining access to the sites, with many roads being damaged or flooded preventing us from refuelling our batteries or restoring power to the site,” O’Sullivan said.
“The major areas impacted at this stage include Durban South, South Coast, Umlazi, Malagazi, Amanzimtoti, Ballito and Salt Rock, among others.”
Vodacom spokesman Byron Kennedy told TechCentral that widespread flooding has affected more than 400 of its mobile towers, largely due to power interruptions.
“Certain customers in a number of coastal areas – from Ballito in the north to Amanzimtoti in the south – are currently experiencing intermittent mobile services. Additionally, some fibre customers are being impacted because of water-logged fibre ducts,” Kennedy said.
“Vodacom has scalable contingency plans in place to deal with scenarios of this nature and is working hard to restore connectivity in impacted areas as quickly and as safely as possible. While efforts to restore sites are being hampered by severe damage to roads and certain facilities not being accessible due to the risk of electrical shocks, Vodacom assures impacted customers that restoring connectivity is its utmost priority.”
Asked for comment on how the situation has impacted the company, Telkom said more than 230 mobile network sites were down. “The floods have impacted deliveries to stores and homes. Our stores and call centre staff capacity is impacted and some stores are closed due to staff not being able to get to their places of work,” the company said.
“The power failures has also exacerbated the impact on our services. Our technicians are on the ground starting to recover services where they can access sites.”
Meanwhile, Eskom said crews have been dispatched to assess and deal with interruptions to power supply caused by the floods. The power utility said heavy rain has rendered some areas in KZN inaccessible and called for patience from communities.
Eskom CEO André de Ruyter said local crews are already assessing damages caused by the heavy rain. “Where there are these events that disrupt the supply of electricity … we dispatch our maintenance crews; we prioritise work to give the maximum relief to the maximum number of customers as quickly as possible.
“We have had a significant ingress of debris into our Drakensburg pump storage facility. So, while we have grids that stop debris from entering into the turbines, these clog up when there’s an excess of debris and these have to be frequently cleared up.
“We also have a challenge at Ingula [pumped storage scheme] with the dams being excessively full. In order to run a pump storage facility, you need two dams and you want one dam full and one dam empty. This allows you to run water downhill through the turbine to generate electricity. When, owing to heavy rain, the bottom dam is full and the upper dam is full as well, then you have a constraint because you can’t release water from the upper dam otherwise you’ll cause flooding downstream with the lower dam,” he said.
De Ruyter said the heavy rains are not expected to affect the power utility’s coal stockpiles.