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7th person hospitialised after refinery blast, community to lay charges

Emergency services and firefighters were on the scene since 7 am on Friday when the plant went up in flames.

The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance demanded that the refinery be shut down. Picture: Riosha Kuar

JOHANNESBURG/DURBAN - Another patient was transported to hospital on Friday morning in KwaZulu-Natal following an explosion at an Engen refinery. It brought the total number of people being treated for smoke inhalation to seven.

Emergency services and firefighters were on the scene since 7 am on Friday when the plant went up in flames.

The blaze has now been contained, but there are reports that this was the second explosion at the same refinery this year alone.

The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance demanded that the refinery be shut down because it posed safety risks, not only for workers, but also the public.

The alliance's Desmond D'sa said: “We’re calling for criminal charges against the acting municipality manager and the refinery. We’re meeting with another association this morning and we’ll tell them that.”

He said the alliance will lay a criminal complaint against the refinery.

PICS: Engen refinery explosion engulfed in flames and black & blue smoke

Engen released a statement after the news, saying the health, safety and well-being of its workers, the community and the environment remains the company's top priority. It said it was co-operating fully with the investigation into the blast.

But Merebank community members are angry with the company, especially given that the morning explosion was not the first at the refinery.

Merebank community member Frank Alexander said Engen failed to ensure the safety of communities near its refinery.

“We want a situation where the community’s concerns are addressed but I think at this point, Engen has always put profits above human life.”

Alexander said this latest explosion took place at a time when the community was already taking court action against Engen over health and safety concerns.

“There’s a school near the refinery and this is what we refer to as the environmental apartheid, it’s actually corporate terrorism that’s taking place and we’ve been subjected to this for a very long time. Engen has to be held responsible.”

Disaster management teams are assessing the scene following the blast.

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