Picture from outside the munitions plant close to #SomersetWest where an #explosion took place, on Monday. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency.
Cape Town - The leading cause of a mass explosion that killed eight people at the Rheinmetall Denel Munition factory in Somerset West was an ignition propellant which consisted of more than 95% of nitrocellulose which is commonly known as guncotton.

It is used as an ignition material for ammunition charge systems. The combustion products of this material consist of carbon dioxide (34%), water (13%), nitrogen (13%) and carbon monoxide (38%) as well as hydrogen (1%), and methane (1%). Rheinmetall Denel Munition said the investigation of the incident is continuing.

“Rheinmetall Denel Munition’s priority remains to offer continuous support to the families, employees and community members affected by the incident,” spokesperson Roman Koehne said. He said the company will hold another meeting with the families today on its premises to provide another detailed update on the incident.

“There is nothing more important right now than providing utmost support and care for the families involved in this heartbreaking incident,” Rheinmetall Denel Munition chief executive Norbert Schulze said.

Jacoba Mouto, who worked for Rheinmetall Denel Munition for 22 years, puts flowers at the front gate of the plant after eight of her former co-workers were killed in a blast at the site. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency.

A Joint Operations Command (JOC) was activated directly after the incident to co-ordinate immediate disaster response and mitigation effectively. A JOC comes into effect in the first response phase of an incident and consists of various emergency agencies and government authorities. With the response phase completed, the JOC was deactivated on Tuesday evening.

“We understand that the company’s investigation is moving into recovery phase. All emergency agencies and government authorities continue to work hand in hand with Rheinmetall Denel Munition to identify the cause of the incident.

“We are in the process of identifying all the bodies in terms of DNA analyses. All DNA samples have been taken and we expect the results towards the end of the week or next week,” said Johan Dempers, head of forensic and pathology at Stellenbosch University. Dempers refused to divulge the condition of the bodies.

“The autopsy examinations will be completed today for a report to be released towards the end of next week,” he said

While information has not been forthcoming the Cape Argus understands that the bodies of the deceased were transported to the mortuary at the Tygerberg forensic pathology facility and some have not yet been identified because of facial injuries.


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Cape Argus