An emergency vehicle leaves the Rheinmetall Denel Munition depot near Somerset West on Monday night. Photo: AP
An emergency vehicle leaves the Rheinmetall Denel Munition depot near Somerset West on Monday night. Photo: AP

#Explosion: Grief of a Denel worker's wife who lived nearby

Time of article published Sep 3, 2018

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The 41-year-old Nico Samuels reported for duty for the last time on Monday at the Rheinmetall Denel Munition Depot near Somerset West, News24 reported.

He lived less than 200 metres away from a facility where, according to locals, a loud "boom" rocked the facility just before 4pm. Samuels was one of eight people who died in the blast.

There was great tension on Monday night among family members and loved ones waiting for confirmation on the other casualties.

The SA Federation of Trade Unions was shocked and angered by the death of at least eight workers, urging "that everything possible is done to find the further six workers believed to be still missing".

"The factory produces explosives and propellants for civilian and military use in ammunition. Given the extremely dangerous products being manufactured at the factory, the federation demands an urgent and full investigation into this cause of the accident, to check whether all health and safety regulations were being observed in the factory and, if not, to find those responsible.

"The safety inspectors must also look into what additional measures are required to tighten safety rules and ensure that such a tragedy is never repeated."

Samuels' wife Lawrencia was among the people who went to her husband's workplace to find out if everything was "alright".

"I tried to find out what had happened, but nobody gave us any answers. A number of people were already there. Then they started calling names, asking relatives to go to the boardroom. That's when I knew something was wrong."

A co-worker later informed her that her husband had died. On Monday night, dozens of relatives and sympathisers flocked to the Samuels home.

"I'm waiting for him to come home," Lawrencia wailed while an uncle embraced her as she wept.

According to locals, "things fell off tables and shelves in my house". 

"I felt it into my feet. The ground shook. I thought it was an earthquake."

Residents say most of the Denel employees were locals. The facility was one of the biggest job providers in the area.

Officials are investigating the cause of an explosion. Fears have also been allayed regarding the plume of smoke seen after the explosion on Monday afternoon. 

Disaster Risk Management spokesperson Mandy Thomas said: "After an initial inspection, Rheinmetall Denel Munition RF(Pty) Ltd has assured the City of Cape Town that the plume that followed the explosion holds no threat to the general public. All necessary precautions are being taken and the investigation will carry on at first light tomorrow."

Due to the munitions plant being a National Key Point, the City said Rheinmetall Denel Munition would handle any further communication on the incident and that no further information was available.

Acting President David Mabuza sent his condolences to the families of the eight who died.

He further urged authorities to “get to the bottom of the cause of the explosion so that necessary action can be taken”. 
Denel is a state-owned aerospace and military technology enterprise.

DA public enterprises spokesperson Natasha Mazzone said it was vital that the relevant authorities urgently conduct a full and thorough investigation into the cause of the explosion.

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