HARARE – Power output at Zimbabwe’s State-run power producer, ZESA Holding plunged by 400 megawatts (MW) at the weekend after torrential rains and flash floods tore through the north western parts of the southern African country, swamping homes, destroying infrastructure and flooding a string of coal mines.

State media reported on Monday that a key bridge linking the resort town of Victoria Falls and the rest of the country had been extensively damaged by the heavy rains, threatening the flow of tourists and regional trade.

The artery is used by cross border trucks shipping mineral output and other goods from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Zambia and many SADC States to South African ports.

The majority of Zimbabwe’s coal mines are located in the Hwange coalfields, where the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) operates Hwange Thermal Power Station, which is currently undergoing a US$1,5 billion facelift.

The power station generates just over 900MW.

In the past year, Zimbabwe has heavily relied on the thermal power facility after a ruthless drought saw water levels at Kariba hydroelectric power station drop to a precarious 19 percent at the end of last year, escalating power cuts and grounding industries.

But on Saturday, Zimbabwe was hit another body blow by the sudden heavy rains which totalled 139mm in three hours, flooding coal shafts at the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange listed Hwange Hwange Colliery Company Limited, Makomo Resources and Zambezi Gas.

The mines have halted coal shipments to the thermal power station, as de-watering efforts began.

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However, there were fears that they may not have capacity to flash out the waters before above ground coal banks diminish and trigger the closure of the power station.

“It is a disaster in terms of coal mining, as the pits are flooded,” said Raymond Mutokonyi, chairman of the Coal Producers Association.

“All mines are affected and we hope to start the process of de-watering on Monday,” he said, before warning that huge amounts of money owed to coal producers by ZPC could undermine de-watering efforts.

“The situation is made worse by the fact that the de-watering process is expensive and most coal miners do not have money to undertake this mammoth exercise since the Zimbabwe Power Company is not paying us for coal supplied. Coal miners are owed in excess of $100 million by ZPC as at January 10, 2020, but we have supplied more coal since then and the figure is now over $100 million,” he said.

Hwange Colliery told State media on Sunday that it will work to remove the flood inflows quickly.

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Heavy rains left 35 families in two suburbs Hwange homeless.

On Sunday, Zimbabwe’s Energy Minister Fortune Chasi tweeted: “The weather has conspired against us. Hwange Power Station Coal Plant flooded. Power station now down to zero megawatts. 400MW lost. Zesa Working to recover.”

Zimbabwe has been getting most of its power through imports from Mozambique and South Africa.