UPDATE: Gas tanker explosion in Worcester destroys buildings, injures firefighters

2019-07-10 10:23
The wreck of a vehicle following a gas tanker explosion in Worcester.

The wreck of a vehicle following a gas tanker explosion in Worcester. (Supplied)

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Several buildings were destroyed when a truck carrying gas exploded in Worcester in the Western Cape on Wednesday morning.

Western Cape police chief Kenny Africa told News24 that a biltong shop, Bike Boutique and the Department of Water Works' building were among the premises destroyed in the blaze.

Africa earlier told News24 the explosion happened near the Agri petrol station just after 06:00. It was initially thought that it was a petrol tanker that exploded but it has since been confirmed that the truck was carrying gas. 

Spokesperson for the Western Cape Department of Transport and Public Works Ntomboxolo Makoba-Somdaka told News24 five buildings and two vehicles (the tanker and a bakkie) were completely destroyed and another four buildings have been partially destroyed.

"There also appears to be some damage to the town's water mains and electricity infrastructure in the immediate vicinity," Makoba-Somdaka said. "The driver of the tanker reversed into a lamp pole causing damage to the tank, releasing a vapour cloud. A civilian bakkie drove through the cloud causing a fire and the explosion. The driver of the bakkie is currently in ICU with some burn wounds.

Saved by passer-by

"The driver of the bakkie who is critical was saved by a passer-by. While trapped in the bakkie, he was screaming for help and a man who was walking to work managed to get him out of the burning vehicle," Makoba-Somdaka told News24. 

According to Africa, two firefighters have been injured while trying to contain the blaze. "No deaths have been reported," Africa said.

WATCH: Gas tanker explodes in Worcester, buildings on fire

Worcester police spokesperson Captain Lindikhaya Mkhontwana said the gas truck caught fire after reportedly hitting the pole near the traffic lights in High Street. 

"It is reported that the fire was ignited as a result of the explosion of the gas tank after the truck had hit the pole.

"Four buildings were burned down including the offices of Department of Water and Sanitation, two other buildings were damaged after they were hit by the gas tank and one car, which was parked, also burned down," Mkhontwana said. "A case has been opened to investigate reckless and negligent driving as well as malicious damage to property. No suspect has since been arrested."

ER24 spokesperson Russel Meiring said two people were left injured following the incident.

"Breede Fire Services battled the blaze while paramedics tended to two patients. Assessments showed that both patients had sustained minor to moderate injuries.The patients were treated and thereafter transported to Mediclinic Worcester for further treatment," Meiring said.

Meanwhile, the town's roads remain closed as clean-up operations continue. 

The Breede Valley Municipality said in a statement: "Urgently note that there are road closures to Worcester from the N1 Meirings Park entrance as well as road closures in High Street, Smit Street, Field Street, Brown Street and Church Street. This is as a result of a gas truck that exploded in the area. The public is encouraged to make use of other routes, reduce speed and exercise caution."

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