Panic as truck explodes

2015-04-20 00:00

THE driver of a petrol tanker that exploded at BP Oasis Garage near Cato Ridge on Saturday morning tried in vain to put out the flames but the fire was too big.

Vusumuzi Nikelo (33) had walked alway leaving the vehicle parked behind the main building just minutes before the tanker caught fire and then exploded.

Luckily no one was nearby when the tanker burst into flames and shortly thereafter exploded.

The reason why the truck caught fire is still unknown.

The resultant inferno and huge black pall of smoke could be seen many kilometres away from as far away as Ashburton and some vantage points in Pietermaritzburg.

Nikelo told News 24 at the scene that he had driven from Durban and was en route to Estcourt when he stopped at the BP Oasis garage on the N3.

“After parking, I did a vehicle check before I went inside. When I got into the service station, I heard people screaming that there was a fire,” Nikelo said.

Nikelo said he noticed everyone running towards the truck before hearing “a loud bang”.

“I saw the truck in flames. I tried to stop the fire with an extinguisher but the fire was too much,” said Nikelo.

The tanker was carrying petrol and ­diesel.

Chaos erupted at the service station and customers fled in panic as the flames soared as high as the building.

A bakkie, which was parked alongside the truck, also caught alight.

Paramedics and firefighters from the Durban’s Metro Fire and Rescue Services rushed to the scene to extinguish the flames, which according to eye-witnesses, took more than four hours to put out.

The manager of the garage, Juvenal de Abreu, said no one was injured.

“This has never happened before. I’m waiting for the driver to give us a report. The garage was evacuated for safety ­reasons,” De Abreu said.

News24 journalist Amanda Khoza said she was driving from Durban to ­Pietermaritzburg when she stopped at the garage for coffee and a muffin.

According to Khoza, she’d sensed ­panic in the shop before hearing the ­explosion.

“The employees were frantically ­asking each other where the fire ­extinguisher was and if anybody had called the fire department,” Khoza said.

Khoza said she went out to her car when she heard a loud explosive bang.

“People started running out of the shops and I could feel the heat from the fire from where I was standing,” she said.

Motorists on the N3 stopped their ­vehicles on the side of the highway to take pictures.

According to ER24 spokesperson Chitra Bodasing, paramedics were on standby at a filling station.

“The exact cause of the incident is ­unknown, however, authorities are on scene for further investigations,” ­Bodasing said.


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