An eyewitness has described the "terrifying" moment an LPG tanker exploded in the Worcester town centre on Wednesday morning.
Marazelle de Villiers, a resident who works at a local transport company, lives two blocks from the scene of the massive explosion that rocked the Western Cape town.
"We were lying in bed this morning, about 6 o'clock, and I was the first one to hear a sound. We got into the car and we drove to the scene and, as we arrived, there was nobody there yet... so I parked my car quite close without knowing it's going to explode again," she told News24.
"We climbed out and we started looking at the flames."
De Villiers said they were joined by several other onlookers and were standing about 150m from the fire, filming on their cellphones.
"The firemen started reversing and my boyfriend told me we need to go back."
Seconds later, a massive explosion rocked the area.
"I've never experienced anything like that in my life. I just heard him screaming 'run!'," she recalled.
De Villiers said it felt like an earthquake, as all the onlookers ran for their lives, with sparks and debris flying past their heads.
"You could feel it in the ground. You could feel the heat behind you... and you could see a dark cloud coming over and sparks were still hanging over us.
"There was like a massive gas cloud – a cloud full of flames that went up and after that everything was gone. The truck was gone."
De Villiers said it was a miracle that nobody was killed, as there were still vehicles driving right past the fire moments before the explosion.
"If you look back in my video you can actually see cars driving past… so the big explosion happened after that. So, imagine the three or four, five cars were still going past the robot," she said.
De Villiers admits they were lucky to escape unharmed, especially when she looks back on her video. But as someone working in the transport industry, her heart went out to the driver.
"I think the worst feeling for us as witnesses…was not knowing if the driver got out or not," she told News24.
The Western Cape government confirmed three people, including two firefighters, had been injured.
Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell said the situation report indicated that the driver of the tanker had 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 the civilian currently in ICU with some burn wounds," Bredell said.
Terrifying to witness
In the moments following the blast, De Villiers said the streets filled up with water and they realised the force of the explosion had damaged water pipes, making it harder for firefighters to extinguish the ensuing blaze that spread to the surrounding businesses.
Bredell said five buildings were completely destroyed and another four were partially destroyed. There also appeared to be damage to the town's water mains and electricity infrastructure in the immediate vicinity, he said.
Reflecting on the incident, De Villiers' voice still quivered with shock.
"It was terrifying for us as witnesses, witnessing so much destruction and you can’t do anything," she said.