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South Africa chemical factory explosions injure 13, two critically

15 December 2020

A fire and several explosions at a chemical factory in Durban, South Africa injured 13 people on December 8. Over 100 workers were evacuated from the factory and two of the injured are reported to have suffered life-threatening injuries.

Representative image: Shutterstock
Representative image: Shutterstock

The incident happened at a factory belonging to Zeta Laboratories in New Germany, outside of Pinetown in Durban and occurred just days after another explosion in the city at an oil refinery operated by Engen.

Firefighters tackled the blaze for several hours before it was extinguished. A lack of fire hydrants in the area had made it difficult for firefighters to tackle the flames until fire trucks arrived at the scene. Paramedics attended the scene at around 11:00 local time and all 13 inured people were taken to local hospitals.

Local officials said that they believe the fire started in the processing area of the factory and quickly spread to 20 gas cylinders which caused an explosion. A number of chemicals were stored on site, including 10 tonnes of sanitisers, acetone, hydrogen peroxide, caustic soda, and petroleum jelly tanks which all helped the fire to spread and caused further explosions.

According to news website Independent Online (IOL), the factory manager said that several of the injured workers had suffered third-degree burns. He added that an investigation into the incident has been opened and that the company is still evaluating the total cost of the fire and explosions.

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