Substation fire causes blackout in almost half of Prague

Photo: CTK

A fire at an electrical substation left many Prague’s residents without power on Tuesday night. The blackout did not cause any direct injuries, but left some stranded in lifts or without a way to get home.

Photo: CTK
At around 10:30 pm on Tuesday, almost half of the capital – in the eastern central and southern regions – lost power. For some, the electricity came back on after a few minutes, but most remained in darkness for an hour to an hour and a half. Some buildings were also left without running water.

The reason was a massive fire at an electrical substation in the southern Chodov district. Some 60 tons of oil ignited causing a loud explosion and fierce blaze. Officials at the ČEPS company, which manages power distribution, presume that the explosion was caused by damage to the porcelain electrical bushing in the transformer. Vladimír Tošovský, chairman of the board of directors of ČEPS:

“This is not an unusual defect. It happens. The last time this happened in the Czech Republic was in 2009 in Vyškov, when a similar transformer burnt down. On the other hand, this transformer is not very new, it is 15 years old. It is now completely destroyed and we will have to build a new one.”

Damages to the substation and the transformer are so far being estimated at 100 million crowns.

As a result of the blackout, some people became trapped in elevators and had to wait in the muggy heat for firefighters to pry them out. Hospitals in the affected areas switched to back-up generators, and luckily no problems were reported during ongoing treatments or patient care.

Trams in the area were not running and some buses operating close to the explosion site were rerouted. The police ordered residents near the transformer station not to leave their homes and advised them not to open their windows – an unpleasant reality in 30-degree weather.

Photo: CTK
It took all night for firefighters to get the blaze under control. Some 100 police officers and 70 firefighters were at the scene, including members of the chemical unit, trying to put out a few-meters high flame. The processes of cooling down what was left of the transformer, which still contains at least 40 tons of oil that could ignite, will take some time, according to Antonín Šustr, who is in charge of the fire brigades.

“This is definitely one of the more difficult fires. From our experience, it will take two to three days to finish up here.”

The Chodov substation will be rebuilt in a few months, and electricity is being routed through other transformers, as power usage is at very high levels due to the current heat wave scorching the Czech Republic.

But as the capital’s electricity providers and distributors seemed to have gotten things under control, a fire broke out at another transformer station, this time in the eastern district of Hloubětin on Wednesday before noon. Officials have said the two incidents, though, are not related.