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Cable thieves’ deaths spark blackouts in Johannesburg

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JOHANNESBURG: Two people were electrocuted while trying to steal power cables, incidents that plunged parts of Johannesburg into the dark, the South African city´s energy supplier said on Wednesday.

City Power said the “burnt beyond recognition” bodies of two people were found this week amid a “spike in vandalism and theft” affecting its infrastructure.

One body was retrieved from inside a transformer at a substation in a western suburb, while the second was found near cut cables in a trench in the southern township of Soweto, company spokesman Isaac Mangena said.

“It is suspected that the vandalised cable was still live when the suspect attempted to cut it and was electrocuted,” he said, referring to the second incident.

The pillaging of electricity and railway cables for copper has long been a problem in South Africa, with authorities blaming criminals for worsening the country´s power crisis and disrupting transport.

To curb the practice, which affected companies estimate costs the country almost 50 billion rand ($2.8 billion) a year, the government banned exports of scrap-metal in late 2022.

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