Fire at Engen sparks angry row

2011-10-12 00:00

A FIRE at an Engen oil distillation unit in Durban on Monday was “not by any means insignificant”, said an infuriated Desmond D’sa, chairperson of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA).

Last night a meeting was scheduled at the Settler’s Primary School in Merebank that lawyers, activists, concerned members of the community and representatives from Engen were expected to attend.

High on the agenda was a fire at the crude oil distillation unit at the oil refinery near Wentworth, which had to be evacuated.

The fire apparently halted production at the refinery, which supplies 25% of South Africa’s fuel.

Pupils at Fairvale Secondary School, directly opposite the refinery’s main entrance, were sent home early as a precaution and D’sa said they are suffering from respiratory problems as a result of inhaling toxic fumes.

Engen spokesperson Herb Payne said the blaze was a level-two fire and not as severe as it was made out to be.

“It wasn’t serious and we managed to contain the fire with internal firefighters,” he said.

A team from eThekwini Metro’s chemical firefighting unit was sent to to help the refinery’s in-house firefighting team.

The two sirens, informing the community and Engen workers that the fire had been doused, went off at 3 pm.

D’sa told The Witness that his organisation had been fighting Engen for the past 17 years and that Monday’s incident shows why their struggle is so important.

“We will not succumb to them, and this just fuels our desire to defend our right to decent living,” he said.

• rowan.sewchurran@witness.co.za

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