Gas tanker explosion in Worcester destroys buildings, injures fire fighters
More than 30 fire fighters were battling a fire after a gas tanker exploded in Worcester's industrial area in the early hours of Wednesday morning, 10 July 2019. A tanker carrying LP gas had a collision, resulting in an unconfined vapour cloud explosion and massive fire but thankfully there were no fatalities. Breede Valley fire chief, Theo Botha, said, "Fortunately, the incident occurred in an industrial area, so the factories were closed and there was no one in the vicinity, so that helped save lives." The fire spread to nearby buildings. 12 fire engines from Breede Valley and Cape Winelands Fire Services were on the scene, fighting four structural fires simultaneously. Six people were injured in the incident, including two fire fighters. All but one have subsequently been discharged from hospital.
Chief Botha said, “It was speculated that the driver of the propane carrying truck had reversed into a lamp pole, resulting in damage to the vehicle. That resulted in a gas leak, which after a while, a motorist drove through the gas cloud and that resulted in the first explosion and also caused burns to the driver who was fortunately taken to hospital by one of the workers in the nearby factory. As a result of the initial fire, that impinged on the rest of the tanker, which then caused a further explosion, which then caused a BLEVE, which is a boiling liquid expanding vapour explosion resulting in the tank landing approximately 100 metres from the original site and another quarter of the tank on one of the roofs nearby. The liquid gas that was in the tank then dispersed onto the buildings surrounding it, which resulted in all the buildings igniting simultaneously. That caused damage to the properties, the road, water works and underwater water pipes.”
Botha expressed thanks to God and to everyone who assisted, especially the highly skilled fire fighters.
“It was devastation yesterday but fortunately we could extinguish all the fires and prevent the fire spread to other properties because we have highly industrialised properties in the surrounding area that contain many millions of litres of flammable liquids, so we were very fortunate to be able to protect and prevent more damage. We’ve been able to restore traffic flow as well as electricity and water supply,” he said, the morning after the incident.
Several buildings were destroyed when the truck exploded. Western Cape traffic chief Kenny Africa said that a biltong shop, Bike Boutique and the Department of Water Works' building were among the premises destroyed in the blaze.
The explosion happened near the Agri petrol station just after 6h00. It was initially thought that it was a petrol tanker that exploded but it has since been confirmed that the truck was carrying gas.
Cape Winelands District Municipality (CWDM) said on their Facebook page, “CWDM proudly extends all the personnel of the Breede Valley Fire Services, Worcester EMS and our own fire services, a solid pat on the back for their quick response to the gas tanker accident that occurred in High Street, Worcester this morning.”
“The CWDM's specialised fire teams assisted with two 12 000 litre tankers, two major pumpers, an equipped land cruiser and personnel. The fire teams from Worcester, Stellenbosch, Robertson and Ceres all joined the Breede Valley's Fire Services and worked alongside one another to contain the fire and prevent further injuries to our citizens.”
Spokesperson for the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works Ntomboxolo Makoba-Somdaka said five buildings and two vehicles (the tanker and a bakkie) were completely destroyed and another four buildings have been partially destroyed.
A local explains what he saw, "There were four loud bangs...the dogs were going off but with each bang, the garage door was rattling. We all went outside to see what was going on. It actually looked like Chernobyl, the flame was so big... on our neighbour's walls, you could see the light."
The explosion led to a number of road closures.
A logistics manager was injured when the gas tanker exploded, while he was nearby in his vehicle in Worcester on Wednesday morning, according to various sources. Moreson Earthmovers director, Alwyn Visser, confirmed that their logistics manager Bennie Koch had been rushed to hospital. "His vehicle was turned over in the explosion and he crept out the vehicle," he said. "He had a wound on his back but we don't know anything more."
Koch has worked for the Robertson company for a few years. Visser said they were shocked at the news and waiting to hear more on his condition.
The SA Long-Distance Truckers group said that Koch, who had worked as a trucker in the past, had been driving by at the time and that his vehicle was "obliterated". They said he was in a critical condition at a hospital in Worcester. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Bennie and his family."
The Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, Anton Bredell, says the situation was under control with fire fighters having commenced with damping down of the area later that morning.
“The Breede Valley Fire Department responded immediately and were on the scene within minutes. Six injuries have been reported, including two fire fighters 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.”
Bredell says the situation report indicates that 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.
Fire fighters from Breede Valley Fire Department remained on the scene until operations had been concluded.
SAPS has confirmed that a case of reckless and negligent driving, as well as malicious damage to property has been opened against the truck driver.
Source: EWN, News24, ENCA