’’The sirens sounded twice, which meant there was something serious. If they had sounded one more time, it would have meant an evacuation,’’ Dr. Ram Rambeharie, who lives near the refinery, said the explosion had shaken his house.
A massive explosion at the Engen oil refinery in Durban South, Kwazulu Natal on Friday morning resulted in seven people being rushed to the hospital and treated for smoke inhalation. It is unclear how many people were at the refinery at the time, or if there are any injuries. Emergency services personnel are reportedly at the scene.
Three people sustained injuries when a block of flats across the road from the refinery were set on fire and residents were evacuated from the burning building. A resident, who declined to be named, said she was getting her children ready for school when she heard the bang and ran to check the window.“I first thought it was a tremor when I heard the windows rattle, but saw smoke billowing in the sky”.
According to Garrith Jamieson, an Advanced Life Support Paramedic, the area around the refinery precinct has been closed off to traffic while emergency teams attend to the fire.
An independent investigation into the explosion is underway. KwaZulu-Natal Emergency Medical Services officer, Robert McKenzie said, “The exact cause of the fire or explosion is not known at this stage. We do know that after 7 am Friday morning there was an explosion at the refinery resulting in a fire and big smoke which rose quite high.” Although sources say from information received, it appears that some sort of tanker had exploded.
Concerns on the safety of the area have been heightened as there have been recent reports on the possible closure of the refinery. Residents of Wentworth, Durban have also raised safety concerns after the explosion saying there is no emergency evacuation plan for the area, while Engen has promised to assist the displaced families, the company states that the evacuation process is not its sole responsibility.
Meanwhile, Provincial Environmental Affairs MEC Ravi Pillay says that evacuation of the area and closure of the refinery is a decision for the investors and owners. Pillay said, “We would want to be part of those particular discussions, and we, as a provincial government, are going to follow that up.”
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