Cape Town – Early Wednesday morning explosions rocked Worcester after a gas tanker canisters crashed on the High Street on the edge of the town’s industrial area at about 6am.
Johan Botha, the Breede Valley Municipality public relations officer, said: “The gas tanker jackknifed and crashed and this was instantly followed by a fire and five or six explosions. Two other vehicles at the scene were completely burnt out. We are not sure about any fatalities at this point.
“Seven buildings with several businesses inside them have been severely affected, but fire services are on the ground there and the fire is now under control,” said Botha.
More than 30 firefighters are believed to have taken part in the efforts to contain the fire which stemmed from the explosion in Worcester’s industrial area.
Elton Greeve, a businessman in the area, tweeted a picture of the damage caused and said: “Retail and agri-businesses damaged by the fire.”
Video footage of gas explosion this morning, in Worcester, Western Cape. pic.twitter.com/vZBSJdWmxI
— Elton Greeve (@EltonGreeve) July 10, 2019
The municipality reported that all the roads in the area had been blocked off and a police constable from the Worcester Police station said: “So far there were no deaths, the truck driver survived, but a driver of one of the other vehicles involved is seriously injured and has been taken to hospital.”
On social media messages of support went out to trucker Bennie Koch, a trucker who was seriously injured when his vehicle was destroyed in the explosion. He is believed to be in a critical condition at a private hospital in Worcester.
Coetzee said: “The tanker and the other cars were completely burnt to ashes. Many details are still very unclear, but at this time everything is under control.”
Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell, in a statement, said the situation was under control with firefighters having commenced with damping down of the area.
“The Breede Valley Fire Department responded immediately and were on the scene within minutes. Three injuries have been reported, two firefighters with minor injuries and a civilian with burn injuries who has been admitted to the ICU. The good thing was that this incident occurred at a time of day when there was little traffic and few people around,” said Bredell.
According to a situation report, the driver of the tanker reversed into a lamp pole causing damage to the tank, releasing a vapour cloud.
“A civilian bakkie drove through the cloud causing a fire and the explosion. The driver of the bakkie is the civilian currently in ICU with some burn wounds,” Bredell says.
Five buildings and two vehicles (the tanker and the bakkie) were completely destroyed and another four buildings have been partially destroyed. There also appears to be some damage to the town’s water mains and electricity infrastructure in the immediate vicinity.
Bredell said firefighters from Breede Valley Fire Department will remain on the scene until operations have been concluded.