A fire broke out on Friday at an oil refinery in the eastern South African city of Durban following an explosion, emergency responders said, adding that no-one was killed or hurt in the blast.
Smoke and flames billowed out of the refinery owned by oil company Engen in the Durban suburb of Wentworth early in the morning, prompting firefighters to rush to the site.
“Nobody was injured” in the “massive” blast, provincial emergency services spokesman Robert Mckenzie said via WhatsApp.
He added that a nearby block of flats also caught fire almost at the same time as the explosion.
Firefighters managed to extinguish most of the flames by mid-morning and bring both fires under control, while paramedics treated seven people for smoke inhalation.
Engen later confirmed that the fire started early on Friday morning and had since been “successfully extinguished”.
The company said in a statement that the cause of the blaze was being investigated.
Residents in Wentworth, an impoverished neighbourhood in the southern outskirts of the city, were angered by the blast — the third hazardous incident to occur at the refinery in less than 13 years.
The plant shut down for four months after a similar explosion in 2008.
A fire broke out the previous year when lightning struck a fuel storage tank, although the refinery remained operational after that incident.
The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) on Friday said it would lay criminal charges against Engen for “cutting corners”.
“It has blown up because the refinery is toxic and they do not maintain (it),” SDCEA coordinator Desmond D’Sa said in a Facebook video after the explosion.
The group is also calling for an independent investigation and air quality monitoring in the area.
Greenpeace said the Wentworth community was regularly exposed to “toxic gases” that caused respiratory diseases and could have “devastating” long-term health impacts.
“Rampant respiratory problems that have afflicted communities in the South Durban Basin have been as a result of Engen’s operations,” said Greenpeace Africa climate and energy campaigner Nhlanhla Sibisi in a statement on Friday.
Engen’s Durban refinery has a crude refining capacity of 120,000 barrels per day, according to the company’s website.