‘We saw it coming’ – activists react to Wentworth Engen Oil Refinery explosion

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A non-profit environmental justice service organisation known as groundWork together with the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance say they have previously called for the Engen Oil Refinery in Wentworth south of Durban to shut down.

It says the explosion that happened on Friday morning was not unexpected.

Seven people are now confirmed to have been injured and the fire has since been contained.

The refinery is located in the highly contentious industrialised Durban South Basin area where hundreds of homes border with heavy industry.

Environmentalists have for years been calling for an evacuation management plan from the city in the event of such an occurrence.

GroundWork Director Bobby Peek outlines some of the environmental concerns associated with the refinery:

Pleas fall on deaf ears

Community activists from Wentworth say their pleas for an evacuation plan in the event of a disaster due to heavy industry in the area, has fallen on deaf ears.

In 2005, a fire broke out in a solvents tank at the same refinery.

Activists say the community has been at serious risk for years now.

“These are all fence line community, not even 50m away from the refinery, this is not the first incident. Each time when there is a fire we demand evacuation plans from the city, from the province and from national government,” says one activist.

Another activist says: “These people are all complicit in what has taken place here. In the event of these things happening what is the evacuation plan? Where? How do we deal with this?”

Injured treated, taken to hospital

Emergency services say the seven people sustained mild injuries and have been treated on scene.

They have been taken to hospital for further treatment.

In the tweets below, videos of the fire as it was seen earlier:

Cause of the fire

The eThekwini Fire Department says the explosion happened due to pressure exerted on diesel pipes.

Several emergency teams remain on site.

Acting Head of the Department Sibusiso Mkhulisi says, “The fire was an explosion from pipe work which was pressurised with diesel products. The fire is now under control. The pressure pipes have been isolated.”