Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau
FOUR Zimbabweans are among the 18 people who were killed when a gas tanker exploded in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg in Gauteng Province, South Africa on Christmas Eve.
The blast, which tore the roof off the emergency department at the Tambo Memorial Hospital, destroyed two houses, several cars, and injured bystanders, occurred when the vehicle caught fire while under a low bridge.
The tanker was transporting liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) when it was caught beneath a bridge close to the hospital and houses.
Videos on social media showed a huge fireball under the bridge, which the tanker appeared to have been too high to go under.
It was carrying 60 000 litres of LPG gas, which is used especially in cooking and gas stoves, and had come from the southeast of the country.
As of yesterday, the death toll had risen to 18.
Thirty-seven people were injured, including 24 patients and 13 staff members who were in the hospital’s accident and emergency unit at the time of the blast. They were taken to medical facilities around Johannesburg. Zimbabwe’s Consul-General to Johannesburg, Mrs Melody Chaurura confirmed the deaths of the four Zimbabweans.
“It’s indeed a dark holiday for us as a country. As the consulate, we have since been advised that four Zimbabwean nationals lost their lives in the Boksburg gas explosion,” she said.
“We will soon visit the family after which we will be able to share verified information including providing the usual assistance”.
Scores of people were injured while eight were killed on the spot when the tanker got stuck under a low bridge in Boksburg city, about 100m from Tambo Memorial Hospital.
It is reported that patients were evacuated from the hospital’s casualty ward after part of the roof collapsed following the blast. Media liaison officer for Ekurhuleni Emergency Services, Mr William Ntladi told the media that the gas tanker drove under the subway bridge and got stuck in there, and due to friction, it caught alight.
Indications are that the tanker exploded as emergency crews were trying to put out a fire at the bridge, it destroyed two houses and several cars, injuring bystanders.
South African Police Service (Saps) said they traced and arrested the driver in a hospital where he was being treated late on Sunday.
“The 32-year-old suspect has been charged with multiple counts of culpable homicide, negligently causing an explosion resulting in death,” the police statement said.
South African Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla said the death toll might later rise because of the nature of the injuries some survivors had sustained in the explosion.
Mrs Chaurura said the incident is devastating considering that six other Zimbabweans were killed when a vehicle they were travelling in was involved in an accident along the N1 Highway near Musina town in Limpopo Province.
The incident occurred around Dorothy Farm a few kilometres south of Musina town along the N1 highway. Mrs Chaurura said the matter is being handled by Musina Police Station.
“According to details at hand, a truck with registration number FN66GP was driving from Musina heading towards Beitbridge, when a white Colt with registration number NSZ778GP driving towards Musina collided head on with the truck,” she said.
“The accident claimed the lives of two females aged 15 and 36 years and four males aged 10, three years and three months and a male driver whose age was not revealed.
“Their identities are being withheld as their next of kin are yet to be advised”.
Mrs Chaurura said the Consulate has since dispatched a team to assist with the identification and repatriation of remains.
“We convey our deepest condolences to the bereaved families and also wish to express our appreciation to the host government authorities in Limpopo Province for their support when such tragedies occur,” she said.
The N1 is one of the major commercial roads linking South Africa with most Sadc countries north of the Zambezi River. Over 50 Zimbabweans have perished between Pretoria and Musina in the last 24 months.
Article Source: The Chronicle