Uvongo beach mystery

2011-09-07 00:00

UVONGO beach was cordoned off for several hours yesterday while police and the fire brigade investigated a large steel container holding two 210-litre sealed drums that were left behind by the tide.

Luke Martin, a holidaymaker from Nelspruit, found the three-metre-long, heavily rusted steel container. “I saw this thing lying on the beach at about 9 am and it looked very suspect,” he said. Martin could see two drums inside the rusted steel casing which — together with grey markings that looked like streaks of cement — sparked fears among beachgoers that the containers had been dumped at sea with a load of hazardous chemical waste.

After Martin reported the find to The Witness, the police were called in to inspect the object.

Police had to plan for a worst-case scenario and took care to keep inquisitive onlookers off the beach. Some officers said the shape of the container and the frayed pieces of rope and old tyres seemed to show the container had fallen from a ship.

Some of the onlookers — who kept a safe distance — said jokingly that the container looked like bits from a space shuttle; others quipped that Uvongo had been the target of a nuclear attack.

The search-and-rescue unit and the fire brigade arrived to find the suspect drums empty.

A spokesperson for Margate police, Captain Gerald Mfeka, said the containers turned out to be flotation devices used to dock ships, as the officers suspected, but they had to take maximum precautions to safeguard the public.

“The situation could have been life-threatening if we had opened the drums and harmful chemicals were found.”

Mfeka said the Hibiscus Coast Municipality will remove the steel floats from the beach in due course.

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