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By Tony Carnie and Graeme Hosken
Fire fighters were sent into Durban harbour's high security zone on Thursday after a leak developed on an Engen fuel storage tank.
Police and paramedics were also called to the scene, but turned away from the so-called "Cutler Complex" national key point at Island View. Officials also denied reports of an explosion occurring at the Engen facility.
However, it emerged on Thursday night that Engen's leaking tank was the most likely source of several complaints from Durban residents over the past two days.
Opening the National Association for Clean Air Congress in Durban on Thursday, provincial environment minister Narend Singh said there had been several complaints about the smell of gas in the air on Wednesday morning - but that his officials had been unable to trace the source of the gas.
He issued an appeal to residents to contact his officials so the source could be pinpointed, while the Mercury received further complaints of gas and petrol fumes from the Point area Thursday morning.
On Thursday afternoon, Engen issued a media statement confirming the leak on a storage tank which was said to contain crude oil, diesel and paraffin. Other sources suggested the tank also contained naphtha.
Engen apologised to residents and stated that the fumes posed no health risk.
According to City Health spokesperson Dr Umi Sankar, firemen had sprayed foam into the tank as a precaution, to reduce the risk of sparks or explosion while attempts were made to reposition a floating roof tank designed to prevent the escape of petroleum fumes.
Police spokesperson Michael Read, responding to questions as to why the police were turned away. said this was a precautionary measure.
"Our members were not allowed to go into the site until it was established what was being stored in the containers."