Truck explosion leaves disaster in its wake

2014-02-27 18:09

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So powerful was the impact of this morning’s explosion in Mokopane, Limpopo, in which five people died, that it left a hole about 3m deep in the left lane of the N1 northbound.

It is believed a truck, loaded with explosives, exploded after being hit by a grocery truck. Four 10111 police officers who attended to the scene died in the blast.

The truck was apparently transporting 23 000kg of commercial explosives to a Zambian mine.

This afternoon, bright orange cones marked relevant spots on the accident scene. A burnt-out truck chassis, severely reduced in size, was lying about 100m from the source of the explosion.

The truck debris was flung as far as 300m, damaging at least three police cars as well as a southbound private bakkie, ambulance and another truck.

A distance away, blood stains could be seen behind a marked BMW 1 series police vehicle.

Trees around the scene were mowed down by the impact of the explosion.

Police spokesperson Colonel Ronel Otto said the officers had responded to an accident scene at about 2am.

“It was a serious explosion. The truck driver of the grocery truck as well as four officers died on the scene,” she said.

“The driver of the explosives truck survived. A driver of another truck, which was travelling in the opposite direction, was also hurt – probably from debris during the explosion.”

The N1 was to remain closed for traffic, with vehicles rerouted from Nyl Plaza into Mokopane and onto the R101 towards Polokwane.

With the road still covered in oil, debris and investigators still on the scene, there was no certainty as to when the N1, which is the route for carriage trucks to Zimbabwe, would reopen.

Police boss Riah Phiyega and minister Nathi Mthethwa earlier visited the scene with family members of some of the deceased officers. The two expressed their sadness at the incident with Phiyega saying the officers should be hailed as heroes who died in the line of duty. The officers had apparently tried to pull a driver stuck in the passenger seat from the grocery truck, which had caught fire. They have been identified as Warrant Officer LJ Mafani and constables MR Moloto, ML Sitlaku and MJ Mahloakoane.

Otto said they were all members of the Polokwane 10111 unit.

She said three other officers – a captain and two constables – were out of danger but still receiving treatment in hospital.

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