ZESCO senior corporate affairs manager John Kunda says the fire that gutted part of the dam at Kafue Gorge Lower Hydropower Station will not delay the completion of the project.

In an interview, Dr Kunda said the fire had only affected the dam wall and the paint around that wall, adding that the rest of the project remained intact and will be commissioned as scheduled.

“So, the fire was true, and I wanted to say that this was purely an occupational issue. But the fact is that, first of all, it does not affect the operations of Zesco. The workers were grinding trying to cut some metal that was protruding on top of the dam. And you know, metals, when you cut them they become hot, and you know sometimes even grinding itself can cause some sparks, you can see this all over. So, there was a fresh coat of paint down on the wall; that paint is highly flammable and that’s what basically caused the fire,” said Dr Kunda.

“So, in terms of completion of the dam, and in terms of commissioning the Kafue Gorge Lower Dam, nothing has been affected because no equipment has been affected, and the dam wall has not been affected; the cables in the dam wall have not been affected; no turbines have been affected, it was just the coating, the paint on the wall where the water is supposed to make contact, and so, it’s the paint, which was burnt because it’s highly flammable. The dam wall, the area where the water is supposed to make contact, is painted with what is called a fillant to avoid certain issues in future. And that’s the area, which was on fire.”

According to a Ministry of Energy statement, the fire erupted, Friday, after tie rod bars that were used to hold formwork on the upstream face of the Roller Compacted Concrete (RCC) dam wall caught fire from the cutting torch.

Three employees were burnt, but quickly rescued by their colleagues and rushed to the nearest clinic before being referred to UTH for specialist treatment.

“A flash-fire accident occurred at the Kafue Gorge Lower Hydropower Plant (under construction) on Friday, 23rd October, 2020, at around 11:30hrs. Preliminary investigations have revealed that the three employees were assigned to cut protruding tie rods bars that were used to hold formwork on the upstream face of the RCC dam wall,” read a statement.

“As the workers, who were in a motorised cage were cutting a tie rod mid-way on the dam surface, fire from the cutting torch caught on to nylon rope that was next to the motorised elevated working platform and the burning rope fell to the foot of the dam on a pile of remnants of polyuria – a waterproof coating that has been applied on the lower section of the upstream face of the dam wall concrete.”

The Ministry said authorities were now on-site investigating the incident.