Knysna residents, clean-up crews warned not to touch hazardous asbestos

A helicopter flies with a water bucket to extinguish fires behind a burnt out house in Knysna. (Halden Krog, AP)
A helicopter flies with a water bucket to extinguish fires behind a burnt out house in Knysna. (Halden Krog, AP)

Cape Town - Residents and crews cleaning up after the Knysna fire not touch or work with any asbestos they find because it is a health hazard, the Eden District Municipality said on Tuesday.

A specialist registered with the Department of Labour started an assessment last Thursday of the approximately 650 structures damaged by the fires to identify materials containing asbestos so that it can all be removed by experts, the municipality advised.

Asbestos is commonly found in roofing material, ceiling and floor tiles, insulation and water pipes, tanks and gutters. It is highly toxic.

An accredited service provider would remove the asbestos after the report into how much there is, and where it is, was completed.

"All asbestos is hazardous and can potentially pose a risk to human health," the municipality warned.

"In order to prevent any risk to human health, it is essential that no asbestos-containing material is collected, handled, transported and disposed of by any person or contractor other than a suitably qualified, authorised and approved person or organisation."

The municipality warned:

- Don’t disturb soil contaminated with asbestos;
- Never create dust where there is asbestos;
- Never grind, sand, file or smash an asbestos-containing product;
- Don’t dig in potential asbestos-contaminated areas;
- Keep the surface of the contaminated area damp until the asbestos-containing material is removed by the accredited service provider.

In the meantime, signage is being placed on the affected properties.

An "A" sign on the property indicates the presence of asbestos

An "F" sign indicates an asbestos-free property.

To report asbestos-containing material or asbestos contamination, email Morton Hubbe, Manager: District Solid Waste Management, on morton@edendm.gov.za or Johan Gie, District Waste Management Officer, on johang@edendm.gov.za The region is recovering after fires devastated large swathes of the region, including houses in Knysna.

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