Two trains were on Monday Night set ablaze and shops looted at Cape Town station, when commuters reacted to lengthy delays.
“Two trains are on fire. At this stage there are no injuries,” said City of Cape Town fire and rescue spokesperson Theo Layne.
Police were on the scene, keeping the protesters at bay while the firefighters tried to quench the flames.
The chaos started early in the evening, when passengers became increasingly irate over lengthy delays, which Metrorail attributed to an overloaded electrical system, apparently caused by the storm.
Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott explained that Metrorail had four 11kV power feeds available to operate the train service. Between 3pm and 7pm, two of the four feeds were unavailable. The two remaining ones were overloaded, the electricity supply tripped, and trains all over the network were halted, some for over two hours.
The trouble started while technicians were working on the problem.
“Hundreds of irate customers converged at Cape Town Station and some shops were damaged and looted,” said Scott.
Golden Arrow was allowing Metrorail’s weekly and monthly ticket holders to use its bus service to get home. It would keep operating until all commuters had been ferried out.
Metrorail regional manager Richard Walker apologised to customers, but criticised those who caused the damage.
“We acknowledge that commuters were aggrieved, but no amount of inconvenience warrants such behaviour.”