Jackhammer smashes cable
Contractor 'could have been vapourised'
Last updated 08:05 11/03/2011
Residents in southern Christchurch are being urged to conserve power after a contractor accidentally smashed through a major underground power cable with a jackhammer.
Orion's Roger Sutton said it was a "very very serious'' setback for the city's already fragile electricity network.
He said two cables encased in red concrete, about one metre below ground, had been damaged in what was a rare and potentially lethal accident.
"I don't remember anybody severing this before.'' He said the contractor was "extremely lucky'' as he could have been "vaporised'' by the 66,000 volt line.
Some repairs to the network began last night but it was unclear how long the two cables would take to fix. Orion could be forced to bring in overseas expertise to repair the damage.
"These are really complex cables, they are insulated and carry oil in them,'' said Sutton. "It's going to be difficult to fix.''
Meanwhile, 20,000 houses in southern Christchurch were effectively running on extension cords. "Southern Christchurch is holding together through bits of extension leads. "So the message we've been getting out to eastern areas really applies to southern Christcurch. You need to be cutting back on power consumption.''
Sutton said he did not blame the contractor.
"He will probably have been working for the last two weeks. . . he's been doing his best to get whatever services on he was working on. "Accidents happen. We just need to make sure these sorts of accidents don't happen, not just because it puts power at risk but people could be killed."
He urged any Christchurch customers without power to let Orion know by calling 03-363 9898