Zambia: Death toll rises to three in the Kariba infero

Source: Lusaka Times (Zambia). September 23, 2009

The death toll into the Kariba inferno has risen to three following the death of a 35 year old man who died on Tuesday.

Kabwe Mfula who sustained forty five to fifty percent burns died on Tuesday at the University Teaching Hospital where he was rushed on Sunday from Siavonga District Hospital.

Both police in Siavonga and relatives to the deceased confirmed the death of Mfula who was employed by Sinohydro in an interview with Zambia News and Information Services this morning.

Beatrice Sampa a cousin to the deceased disclosed that their relative died early hours of Tuesday morning.

Sampa added that the body of their relative was transported back to Siavonga were burial is expected to take place.

She said Mfula is survived by a pregnant wife and three children.

Meanwhile police in the area have stated that the bodies of the deceased fire victims will only be buried after a postmortem is conducted in Lusaka.

Police will take the bodies of the two Kariba North Bank fire victims to Lusaka tomorrow (Thursday) for postmortem.

Over 10 Sinohydro employees in Siavonga resigned over poor safety conditions
Written by Lemmy Likando in Siavonga  
Source: The Post (Zambia). 22 September 2009.

More than ten Sinohydro workers in Siavonga have resigned from the Chinese company with immediate effect over what they termed poor safety and conditions of service.

And those that have remained at the Chinese company have pleaded with the government to ensure that safety measures are put in place to prevent loss of lives at the company that is alleged to have started the fire that swept through Kariba North Bank Power Station last Friday.

The workers, who preferred anonymity, told ZANIS that they decided to resign from Sinohydro because of the prevailing poor conditions of service at the company.

They said in separate interviews that they could no longer continue risking their lives over poor working and safety conditions that prevailed at the Chinese firm.

“We were crying to government to come and investigate the conditions of service which this Chinese company is subjecting us as workers to but regrettably our cry was not heard, now that some people have even lost their lives maybe government will do something ,” pointed out one worker.

“There is no way someone who is working underground in the tunnel can be paid K300, 000 when they in fact know very well risks that are involved in working in such an environment. These are some of the things we have been complaining about,” said another worker.

Management at Sinohydro, a company that has been contracted by Zesco to expand the Kariba North Bank Power Station by adding two generators to the existing four, could not be reached for comment by press time.

Meanwhile, a majority of patients that were admitted to Siavonga District hospital with burns following the fire that swept through Kariba North Bank Power Station have been discharged from hospital.

District Director of Health Dr Joseph Kabungo told ZANIS in Siavonga yesterday that out of the total number of forty that were admitted in hospital last Friday, thirty eighty had since been discharged.

Dr Kabungo disclosed that only two fire victims had remained hospitalised and were undergoing treatment because they sustained severe deep burns.

He said the rest of the workers, who included those from Zesco and Sinohydro, had been discharged.

Dr Kabungo described the condition of the remaining admitted patients as stable and out of danger saying the two victims were showing signs of improvement.


Zesco losing K1.3bn per day
Written by Florence Bupe  
Source: The Post (Zambia). 21 September 2009.

ZESCO Limited is losing in excess of US $300,000 [about K1.3 billion] per day due to non-generation of power at the Kariba North Bank Hydro Power Station following a fire that swept through the station last Friday. And energy minister Kenneth Konga on Saturday visited the funeral houses of two victims of the Kariba North Bank inferno where he donated three bags of mealie meal and packets of beef.

In an interview, Zesco acting managing director Cyprian Chitundu said the power utility was losing substantial amounts of income as the station had halted power generation.

Chitundu said 540 mega watts of power were being lost on a daily basis.

“We are losing an average of US $300,000 of income daily, which is quite substantial. However, we will only be able to assess the total revenue loss after we rectify the problem. We are working round the clock to ensure that we clear the debris from the inferno as soon as possible, and we hope by Monday [today] we should be able to resume normal supply to our customers so that major economic activities are not affected,” he said.

Chitundu said the loss went beyond physical infrastructure and direct revenue.

“There will definitely be a loss in confidence from our customers and the public at large. Our staff will also be traumatised, and this in itself, could affect their output. It is unfortunate that we are not able to foresee such events. We were in the process of expanding generation through additional infrastructure, and this is definitely a blow to our efforts. Power generation is a dynamic undertaking, and therefore it is hard to completely avoid such happenings,” Chitundu said.

Two people were burnt to death in the tunnels of the power plant, while more than 33 were hospitalised with burns and respiratory disorders as a result of fume inhalation.

Of the number that was admitted, 25 victims have been discharged, while one has been evacuated to the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) with 48 degree burns to the abdomen and upper legs, and is said to be in a critical condition.

And Konga visited the funeral houses of the two victims last  Saturday afternoon, at which he donated three bags of mealie meal.

Konga consoled the bereaved families, and said the government would assist with the funeral expenses.

“What happened has already happened. All you have to do is put everything in God’s hands and he will see you through. If you need anything, you can inform Zesco management and we will be able to take care of it,” he said.

Earlier after a preliminary inspection of the gutted site, Konga expressed anger at the non-compliance of safety standards by the Chinese contractor Sinohydro, whom he blamed for the fire.

“It is lack of observance of safety rules that leads to such tragedies. The Chinese need to work in line with the Zambian law; it’s either they do that or we find ways of terminating their contract,” Konga said. “The preliminary investigations show that the fire started from the contractor’s site as a result of a spark from welding works. Despite efforts made to put out the fire, the inferno spread. It is unfortunate that we have lost lives in the process. There was clearly an element of negligence and lack of adherence to safety regulations.”

Konga said once experts assessed the complete level of damage to the powerhouse, the government would move in if required to repair the damage.

However, he could not estimate in value terms how much damage had been caused to the plant.

Konga disclosed that he had summoned the leadership of Sinohydro to get an explanation on the accident.

He  said the Zambian government would write to the Chinese government to express disappointment on the work culture and attitude of most Chinese firms.

Konga commended the Zimbabwean Fire Brigade and the Zambian armed forces for their effort in putting out the fire.

Zambian Kariba Power Station on fire, workers trapped

LUSAKA, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) -- Zambia's major power station, the Kariba North Bank Power Station, caught fire on Friday afternoon, with workers still trapped in the underground tunnels of the station, Zambia's ZESCO spokesperson Lucy Zimba told Xinhua.

Zimba said the fire started at 15:00 p.m. local time on Friday afternoon and had been put out by the Fire brigade by press time.

She said there are workers still trapped in the underground tunnels. She said she had not got the number of the workers for the time being.

The spokesperson said rescuers had successfully brought out 20people from the station's power control room where the fire was believed to start, and the injured had been rushed to a hospital nearby.

The Zambian News and Information Service (ZANIS) reported earlier that 6 people were injured in the fire.

"A combined team is now still rescuing the people trapped in the underground tunnels," said Zimba.

The Kariba North Bank Power Station is located on the north bank of Kariba Dam on the Zambezi River. It has an installed capacity of 720 MW with 4 machines.

China's Sinohydro Corporation is now working at the station to expand the power station's generation capacity to a total of 1,080MW.

Chinese Ambassdor to Zambia Li Qiangmin told Xinhua that there were no report of Chinese staff being trapped or injured in the fire.