HARARE – The Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC) said late Monday its thermal power operation at Hwange, about 700 kilometres north-west of the country, returned online after torrential rains and flash floods affected the quality of coal at the weekend, leading to forced shutdown.

ZPC said on its twitter feed that 360 megawatts (MW), out of 400MW that the plant lost at the weekend had been restored.

The closure threatened industries and scores of mines that purchase power from the 920MW facility.

It was feared this could have far reaching implications for a country that is battling to stem a meltdown, riding on output from mines.

“Following unusually heavy rainfall in Hwange on 18 January 2020, Hwange Thermal Power Station was adversely affected by floods which flooded the station’s ash pump house and cooling water pumps. Coal stocks were consequently dampened, leading to forced shutdown of the station,” said ZPC.

“Efforts currently are in place to resume generation at the plant. Units 1 and 4 returned to service this (Monday) morning, while unit 2 is expected back in service by day end. Kindly bear with us as we work tirelessly to restore normal service,” said ZPC.

Power output at ZPC plunged by 400MW after rains and flash floods tore through the north western parts of Zimbabwe, 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.

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 halted coal shipments to the thermal power station, as de-watering efforts began. However, there were fears that they may not have capacity to drain the waters before above ground coal banks diminished.