UPDATE: Joburg EMS remains on standby at SABC Radio Park after massive diesel leak

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The SABC radio building being evacuated after a diesel leak on Wednesday.
The SABC radio building being evacuated after a diesel leak on Wednesday.
Kobus Burger

City of Johannesburg Emergency Services says it will remain at the premises of the SABC Radio Park in Auckland Park, Johannesburg until mopping up is completed and the building is declared safe. 

This after employees at the state broadcaster were evacuated on Wednesday morning at around 10:45 following a diesel leak. 

EMS spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi said the 15th floor of the building was completely flooded and a no-go zone.

"Due to the nature of the risk which we might have, because the capacity of that standby generator is huge, there is a risk of a fire incident if we don’t manage it properly.

"Hence we have decided that everyone who is inside the building must be evacuated so that we can monitor while the spillage cleaning services are busy," said Mulaudzi.

He said it was unknown when mopping up will be completed and EMS personnel will be on standby for any fires that may arise.

Netcare 911 spokesperson Shawn Herbst told News24 earlier that, according to information he had received from the scene, 2 000 litres of diesel had leaked from a generator on the 15th floor. 

"Many people have been evacuated, but others are still trapped on the 17th floor. Our paramedics can't get to them and they can't come down because of the fumes. We are waiting for the fire department to assist," Herbst told News24 at 12:00.

The Johannesburg fire department was on the scene, as well as other emergency service providers. 

Herbst said no fires had been reported.

The trapped employees have since been evacuated, the SABC has said in a statement. 

Difficulty breathing

On social media, employees reported that some people had collapsed and had difficulty breathing. 

Herbst said in a subsequent statement that three patients suffered the effects of chemical inhalation and were treated on scene before being transported by ambulance to hospital for further assessment.

When News24 arrived on the scene, most of the evacuated personnel had been sent home. Others were still loitering around the building as they had left their keys in their offices. 

SABC spokesperson Vuyo Mthembu confirmed that the building had been evacuated. 

Ageing generator

In a statement, the broadcaster said a power outage earlier on Wednesday morning had resulted in the SABC's internal systems switching from City Power to a back-up generator. 

"Due to the ageing and failure of the equipment, this led to the diesel tank overflowing," the statement read. 

"The health and safety of SABC employees is of paramount importance and, as a precautionary measure, all our employees from the Radio Park building have been safely evacuated." 

Radio stations

Mthembu said radio stations that were affected were Metro FM, 5FM and Radio 2000. She said while evacuation was taking place, the stations were playing automated music and adverts. 

"But I think operations will go back to normal because they [radio station staff] are on the ground floor and are able to access the studios and also will be able to exit, should anything else happen," she said.

Mthembu said the broadcaster would be looking into a possible replacement of the ageing generator to avoid similar incidents in the future.


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The Johannesburg fire department's truck outside the SABC's Radio Park building. (Sheldon Morias)

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Emergency services on the scene where 2 000 litres of diesel leaked in the SABC Radio Park building. (Sheldon Morias)

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