The ongoing Durban factory inferno has thrust the safety of residents in surrounding areas into the spotlight.
The massive factory fire – at the Transnet-owned wax-production facility – continued to rage on Saturday morning‚ keeping parts of Durban blanketed by a thick black cloud of smoke.
Firefighters have rated the massive blaze – which broke out on Friday morning – as among the biggest building fires in South African history.
It has prompted the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) to call on the city to put into place an evacuation plan for residents living around the industrial hub south of Durban – home to major petroleum companies and other heavy industry.
It is understood that environmental management companies have worked through the night to contain the petroleum wax from flowing into the Durban harbour from the Umhlathuzana River.
“Once again the residents are asking for a proposed emergency evacuation plan… for rollout during disasters such as this fire‚” said Desmond D’Sa of the SDCEA.
According to D’Sa “the smoke and fire – like other similar disasters in the south Durban industrial basin – posed a serious risk” to the residents and the environment.
He said the lack of a proper evacuation plan was a serious concern.
“There have been repeated calls for an evacuation plan‚ especially after previous incidents on the same scale‚ such as the Island View storage explosion in September 2007‚ overwhelming smoke from the Engen refinery in October 2006 and a fire at KZN Oil in March 2015‚” D’Sa added.
Despite that plume spreading beyond Ballito – some 60km north of the South Coast Road factory – officials on the scene said initial assessments showed there was “no health risk” to residents.
Alex Gloster‚ a Durban Fire Department commander on the scene of the factory fire‚ said: “This is certainly the biggest fire of my career‚ and it is probably up there with the biggest‚ or is the biggest‚ [building] fire event in SA.”
Three firefighters were injured in the blaze.