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Durban - Hare Krishna devotee Anand Durgiah has prepared daily meals for children at more than 15 impoverished Phoenix schools for the past decade, without incident.
But things went horribly wrong on Friday.
The 67-year-old Food For Life chef and three others were cooking for a festival at a Hare Krishna temple in Phoenix when some large gas cylinders exploded, seriously burning them.
The volunteers and labourers were apparently replacing an empty gas bottle when the explosion happened at around midday.
Five LPG (liquified petroleum gas) cylinders, each weighing 48kg, that were being used for cooking, had been exposed to the fire, said the northern region divisional commander of the fire department, Bheki Hadebe.
It is believed three of them exploded.
Prabhanu Das, co-president of the Juggernath Puri Temple, in Longcroft Place, said two devotees and two labourers were injured.
Durgiah sustained burns to his hands and face, while labourer Themba Zungu was the most seriously injured, with burns to 65 percent of his body.
Das said two other men, only known as Rocky and Sipho, were also seriously injured in the explosion.
He said they were all in a stable condition at uMhlanga Hospital.
“I visited them on Saturday and they were still in shock. Yesterday, they appeared much more relaxed and seemed to be coming to terms with what happened,” he said.
“We are still waiting for a report from the local fire department as to what could have triggered the explosion.”
Das, who was not at the temple at the time, said meals were being prepared for a temple festival that evening.
He described the scene after the explosion as chaotic and said the temple was shut down as a precautionary measure.
“The kitchen is situated below the main temple. Fortunately, the explosion happened about 4m away from the temple.”
Das described it as a freak accident and said regular checks were conducted on the gas.
“We comply with all health and safety requirements and regular checks are done by the fire department. It was just an accident.”
A source, who was at the temple, said it was believed that the gas burners inside the kitchen were still on when one of the gas bottles was being changed.
“The heat and flames travelled through the pipes and resulted in the explosion.”
Police spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, confirmed the incident, but said no case had been opened.
The chairman of Food For Life SA, Viresh Panday, said Durgiah had prepared meals daily for pupils at several local schools.
“This has been his dedicated service to humanity for the past 10 years,” he said.
“Alternative arrangements have been made with the Chatsworth (temple) branch to ensure that feeding (4 000 children a week) is not disrupted because of this incident.”