Hundreds flee gas at Coega

SAFE PLACE: Discovery Health Service Centre staff members are taken to a safe area by rescue officials y e s t e rd a y Picture: EUGENE COETZEE
SAFE PLACE: Discovery Health Service Centre staff members are taken to a safe area by rescue officials yesterday

ABOUT 800 people were evacuated from the Discovery Health Service Centre in the Coega Industrial Development Zone yesterday.At least 43 people were taken to hospital following a suspected gas leak from the building’s airconditioning system.

About 20 ambulances and two fire engines arrived at the Business Process Outsourcing Park after the alarm was raised at 11.30am.

One irate staff member, who declined to be named, said he had feared for his life.

“Health and safety officials came running in telling everyone to leave.

“Some people collapsed and fainted prior to evacuation while some of my colleagues, started vomiting. It was very scary,” he said.

Prior to yesterday’s incident, an internal memo was sent to staff saying the building was safe.

“Within a few minutes of this email being sent, the evacuation started,” the staff member said.

“It was bound to happen sooner or later as the ventilation in the building is not sufficient. On a hot day, we have to open all the emergency exits to get air in.”

People were also evacuated from the building on Tuesday while aircon specialists replaced a suspected leaking pipe.

When the media arrived, management ushered staff to the opposite side of the building.

Some staff members had complained about headaches and nausea, officials said.

The multimillion-rand centre was opened in November 2011 and has staff facilities such as a spa, gym and canteen.

Nelson Mandela Bay EMS operations manager and advanced life support medic Ashwell Botha said all staff had been evacuated to an emergency assembly point.

“A total of 43 patients were taken to various hospitals for treatment of symptoms ranging from coughing to dizziness and nausea.”

Fire fighters traced the suspected gas leak to a canister linked to the airconditioning system.

Discovery Health head of service Mujeeb Bray said all employees in the affected areas had been evacuated by emergency officials.

A team from the Coega IDZ, including air safety experts, were on site to inspect the air quality.

“We take this matter and the health and safety of our employees very seriously,” Bray said.

“We are sending a team of independent experts as well as senior managers from Discovery to Port Elizabeth to ensure the matter is resolved and addressed with a high priority.”

Client service had not been interrupted by the evacuation.

Coega Development Corporation spokesman Dr Ayanda Vilakazi said they did standard maintenance on airconditioning facilities every second month.

-Gareth Wilson


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