THE Lakhra Coal Power Plant building damaged and blackened by fire on Thursday.—Dawn
THE Lakhra Coal Power Plant building damaged and blackened by fire on Thursday.—Dawn

HYDERABAD: The Lakhra Coal Power Plant was shut down for an indefinite period after a big fire caused extensive damage to its underground cables on Thursday morning. Many fire tenders were employed to bring the fire under control in a 10-hour-long battle.

The fire started from the underground cables connected with a pumping machine meant for lifting river water for the plant. It swiftly engulfed the entire 6kV cable at the plant.

The machinery and equipment at the plant is said to have sustained damage but plant manager Ghulam Shabbir Jatoi said that he was not sure about extensive damage. An assessment to estimate the damage would be completed by Friday morning, he added.

The 6kV cable that runs across a trench and is connected with a panel system was completely destroyed by the fire. The costly panel is connected with three units. The wiring system of all the three units as well as related machinery was hit by the fire.

Fire-fighters had to break a portion of the wall to gain access to the fire-hit area and create space for smoke emission.

Fire tenders from various talukas of Hyderabad and Jamshoro were employed keeping in view the intensity of the fire. Thick black smoke kept billowing from the building until they managed to control the fire.

The plant was built by a Chinese firm with an installed capacity of 150 megawatts (50MW each from the three units) in the late ’90s. It contributes electricity to the national grid. However, its two units were churning out electricity on an alternate basis.

According to Mr Jatoi, unit-III has been lying shut for about a decade as it needed rehabilitation. The other two units were also producing electricity below their capacity ie 30 to 35MW on an alternate basis. Unit-I was in operation when fire broke out at the plant on Thursday.

Mr Jatoi said that all the three units needed rehabilitation. “When one of them stops power generation and undergoes repair, then the other one is made operational until it keeps producing electricity,” he said.

The Lakhra Power Plant was leased out to M/s Associated Group for 20 years in 2006 by the Privatisation Commission. However, the plant’s employees’ union moved the Sindh High Court against its privatisation. Eventually, the Supreme Court gave a ruling in favour of the employees.

Mazhar Ali Mallah, who leads the union, feared that the fire had caused 60-70 per cent damage to the plant. “It’s the high-tension cable that is destroyed by the fire and our assessment is that the fire has severely affected all three units,” he added. Mr Mallah claimed that the plant management and the authorities concerned were not paying due attention to the rehabilitation of the power house.

Qamaruddin Shaikh from Mirpurkhas adds: Scores of protesters holding a demonstration against absence of electricity in Bhansingh­abad, Scheme No. II, Wal­kart, Satellite Town and other areas for the last four days, stormed the office of the Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco) executive engineer for Mirpurkhas division and ransacked it on Thursday.

Enraged demonstrators burnt tyres and junk at several places along the Mirwah Road to vent their anger raising slogans against local Hesco officials for their alleged indifferent attitude. They stormed the nearby Hesco XEN office forcing the officers to flee. They ransacked fixtures and furniture causing extensive damage to the office.

The protest and rampage continued for three hours before officials of the local administration managed to persuade people to leave the office and assured that electricity to their areas would be restored as soon as possible.

Some of the protesters told local journalists that a number of pole-mounted transformers were removed by Hesco teams for repairs four days back but none of them were fixed as yet. They said several thousand households had been without water and power since then.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2017

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