S.Africa's Eskom plans more load shedding, says crisis manageable

JOHANNESBURG, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Eskom plans more load shedding due to flooding that triggered unprecedented blackouts a day earlier, South Africa's state power firm said on Tuesday, but added the crisis was manageable.

Eskom on Monday announced power cuts of up to 6,000 megawatts (MW) after heavy rain and flooding triggered failures, disrupting power supply to businesses and households across the country.

"The outlook for this week is to maintain load shedding because of the weather, because of the coal handling challenges that we've got. Also we have a number of units on unplanned breakdown that need to return," Chief Operations Officer Jan Oberholzer told eNCA news channel.

"We believe it is a manageable crisis," Oberholzer said. "Four thousand megawatts of the problem we had yesterday was due to flooding."

Heavy rains across parts of South Africa have triggered flash floods that have submerged whole neighbourhoods, leading to mass evacuations. They have also interrupted coal-fired power generation, partly by dampening the coal needed to burn.

Harmony Gold said on Tuesday it had called off underground shifts at its mines owing to load shedding.

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Eskom has struggled to produce enough power to feed Africa's most advanced economy since at least 2008.

Problems have been magnified by delays and cost overruns at two giant coal-fired plants, Medupi and Kusile, which were touted as a solution to power woes when construction began a decade ago.

The power crisis has also hurt the economy. South Africa's GDP shrank by 0.6% in the third quarter, the second contraction this year, as mining, manufacturing and agriculture were hit by uncertainty over power supply. (Reporting by Tim Cocks)

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