August 22, 2010
Thousands watch demolition of Athlone cooling towers in Cape Town
A shot of the Athlone cooling towers being imploded, taken from Newlands Forest. Photo by Travis Robertson
Thousands of Cape Town residents and visitors braved the rain to watch the demolition of the two Athlone cooling towers today. The 50-year-old landmarks were imploded and reduced to dust in less than 30 seconds.
A few minutes before noon, Cape Town Executive Mayor Alderman Dan Plato dropped a lever to bring the gigantic structures to the ground.
Every man and his dog in the southern suburbs made their way out to Rhodes Memorial and Newlands Forest to find an elevated viewing point of the towers. Closer to the scene, some 4000 people were allowed onto the Clyde Pinelands soccer fields, while a few others were lucky enough to watch the implosion from a helicopter.
At Newlands Forest, hundreds of people congregated in a clearing and cheered loudly as the 80-metre high structures vanished in a cloud of dust, marked by a brief “boom” as more than 21 tons of concrete hit the ground. The dust hung about for several minutes as spectators left the scene satisfied with the entertainment.
Because the demolition actually happened a couple of minutes before the strike of noon when it was meant to happen, many were caught by surprise. Among those caught off guard were e.tv Presenter Andrew Barnes, who did a double take as they went down behind him, checking his watch as he did so.
On popular social networking site, Twitter, many complained about the timing being slightly out. Said Sello Leshope, aka @sellhope, “What an anti-climax. Dan plato is tjatjarag. He pressed the buttom 5minutes too early..” « Premature ejacu-lition.”
Said radio station 702 presenter David O’Sullivan, aka @702David: “Which was best - the Athlone cooling towers collapsing, or Andrew Barnes of E-News’ incredulous look as they imploded early?”
The towers were a recognisable landmark and many people used them to get their bearings.
“Driving on the N2 toward the airport just won’t be the same,” said Bruce Stephenson, who lives in Newlands.
Trevor Cleaver said it was shame the weather wasn’t as good as it has been in recent weeks. “Still, we could see the towers pretty well when they went down and it was a different sort of weekend activity, so I’m glad I put up with the rain and came out to watch it happen. It was quite a historical day, really.”
The towers, which stood next to the N2 in the Pinelands area, had become a safety concern. The decision to implode them was taken in February.
Read more about the mixed reactions from Cape Town residents.
Below is a video of the demolition, posted on YouTube by RaeDuncan.
Spectators in Newlands Forest. Photo by Travis Robertson
The Athlone cooling towers. Photo by Tara Turkington