Methane explosion shocks Welkom

2015-03-23 00:00

WELKOM — A giant ­methane explosion from a ­disused mine shaft damaged several buildings on ­Saturday and left the ­community grateful that no one was injured.

The explosion happened at about 5.30 pm when contractors bulldozed ­rubble into the old No. 1 ventilation shaft at the President Brand mine as part of a rehabilitation ­programme at the mine.

A spark created by the falling ­debris ignited methane gas in the shaft and the ­resulting explosion ­damaged up to 200 homes and several ­shopping malls in what ­residents said sounded like a bomb attack. The shock wave of the explosion was felt in neighbouring towns, while a traffic ­officer reported feeling the shock some 50 km away near Kroonstad.

The Matjhabeng ­Municipality set up a disaster management ­centre near the three ­suburbs that were most ­affected by the falling ­debris from the explosion. The homes nearest to the shaft are badly damaged.

Further away, residents in Jan Cellierspark, ­Uitbreiding 19 and ­Sandania said they saw heavy concrete manhole covers shoot high into the air. Harmony Gold ­yesterday started offering trauma counselling to the shocked residents.

The explosion happened on the 25th anniversary of the destructive tornado that, on March 20, 1990, left more than 800 families without a roof. Two were killed and 98 injured.

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