‘Shoot-out’ turns out to be burning deodorant cargo

2013-11-28 00:00

MKONDENI and Hayfields residents woke up yesterday to what many feared was a raging gun battle.

Some even went to investigate the heavy gunfire sound, only to find the source of the big bangs was a truck ablaze with a cargo of exploding deodorant cans.

Michelle Anne de Lange told The Witness that at about 4.45 am yesterday she was woken by the noise.

The truck, filled with Unilever products, was just metres away from the Unilever factory in Mkondeni on Sats Street when it caught fire.

“I woke to the most bizarre popping, bubbling noise. Not sure what it was, I opened my curtains to see a plume of thick black smoke rising into the sky, a few blocks away from my home. Knowing that my husband was at his workshop [close by], I phoned him to see if he knew what was going on. He had also heard the explosions and went to find the source,” said De Lange.

She said she woke her parents up inside the house.

“I told them that something bad had happened, because of the smoke. As we looked through the window we could see the black smoke. My husband phoned and told us that a large truck which obviously had explosive or flammable cargo on board had caught on fire,” said De Lange. Her husband Zack filmed the blaze with his cellphone.

Hayfields resident Paul Henman said he stays three kilometres away from where the truck was, and to him it sounded like gunfire.

“Awakened by what sounded like gunfire, I took a drive following the black smoke to Mkondeni and found a truck that was transporting deodorant cans on fire. I couldn’t get closer to the truck as the explosions were still going off in some parts of the truck,” he said.

Another resident, Mark Essop, told The Witness that he thought it was gunfire. He said it sounded like a shoot-out between police and robbers. “It sounded like AK47s and pistol gunfire.”

Essop, who lives three kilometres away from the scene, described the noise as sounding like a war zone .

Unilever’s external affairs and media manager Unathi Mgobozi said the truck caught fire on its way to Johannesburg. The fire department, emergency services and police were called to the scene and the area was secured and cleaned up.

“There were no injuries and there was no safety threat to the area … A full investigation into the cause of the fire is being conducted” said Mgobozi.

Msunduzi fire department’s Craig February said three fire engines extinguished the fire. “Luckily the driver managed remove the horse from the double trailer when the fire started,” said February. He added that the truck was loaded with deodorant and soap that may have caused the fire, but they are still investigating. “Deodorant cans explode when on fire and that is why there were popping sounds.”

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said it has been established that the fire may have been caused by faulty brakes, but the exact cause was yet to be determined.

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