‘Monkey trips transformer plunging Kenya into nationwide blackout’

'A monkey climbed on the roof of Gitaru power station and dropped onto a transformer tripping it,' Kenya Electricity Generating Company said.

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NAIROBI // A nationwide power cut that knocked out Kenya’s electricity for three hours was caused by a monkey tripping a transformer at a hydroelectric power station, the country’s biggest electricity company has said.

Kenya Electricity Generating Company (KenGen) said electricity supply was knocked out at 11.30am local time on Tuesday after a technical fault at the Gitaru plant.

“A monkey climbed on the roof of Gitaru power station and dropped onto a transformer tripping it. This caused other machines at the power station to trip on overload resulting in a loss of more than 180 megawatts from this plant which triggered a national power blackout,” KenGen said late on Tuesday.

“Our technical teams have been able to restore supply to the affected areas following the power cut ... the country is now back to normal supply,” said Daniel Tare, the general manager for network management at power distributor Kenya Power.

KenGen said that all of its power installations are secured by electric fencing “which keeps away marauding wild animals. We regret this isolated incident and the company is looking at ways of further enhancing security at all our power plants”.

The troublemaking monkey survived its brush with death and had been handed over to the Kenyan Wildlife Service, KenGen said.

Gitaru, located 180 kilometres north-east of the capital Nairobi, is one of the largest hydroelectric power stations in East Africa and a key source of power for Kenya.

Kenyan businesses regularly complain that power cuts – caused by the country’s ageing grid – and unreliable supplies make them uncompetitive and hurt growth.

* Reuters