Durban -The Durban bomb squad attended to two call-outs after suspicious objects were found at a service station and then another at a Woolworths branch in the city centre where the object was confirmed to be an “incendiary device” - designed to start fires.
On Thursday, the Bomb Disposal Unit was called to search the Woolworths store on Monty Naicker (Pine) and Dr Pixley kaSeme (West) streets for evidence of a “bomb” after a staff member found a box inside a coat pocket.
According to a source, a staff member had been assisting a customer with a coat. When they took it off the coat rail the staff member found it was unusually heavy. He saw a box inside the pocket and panicked.
The staff member took the coat from the store and walked across the road, over five traffic lanes, and hung the coat on a brick wall of the off-ramp for the Pine Parkade parking lot in Monty Naicker (Pine) Street.
Police closed off a section of the road while the bomb squad inspected and removed it. A sniffer dog was taken into the store but police could not confirm if they found anything else.
Police gave the store the all-clear and it was re-opened for business just after 12.30pm.
Woolworths confirmed that an incendiary device was found in their city centre store.
“We immediately evacuated the store. We are shocked by the recent incidences in KZN, both within our stores as well as in the broader community. We have already put in place numerous protection and detection measures to ensure the safety of people and our customers,” read the statement.
Woolworths said customers would see more visible security measures at all their KwaZulu-Natal stores and they appreciated the patience and understanding for any inconvenience caused by these additional measures.
Marshall Soobramoney, a manager at a tavern across the road from Woolworths, said he had seen the coat hanging on the wall after police had knocked on their doors and told them to evacuate.
The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (Hawks) spokesperson Simphiwe Mhlongo confirmed that a device was found in Woolworths.
Police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane said police had been called to check a parcel at a petrol station in Durban North.
“The parcel was searched and old fireworks were found inside it. No docket was opened,” Zwane said.
Durban police have been kept busy in recent weeks over a spate of bomb scares. Last week, police responded to at least three bomb scares in one day - at Woolworths in the Cornubia shopping mall, Commercial City in the CBD and at the Phoenix police station.
Yesterday’s incident brought the total to 10 incidents that police have responded to since last week - half of which were at Woolworths stores. An explosive device was also found near Greyville Racecourse, the Vodacom Durban July venue.
Lebogang Mokubela, Lemok retail marketing group spokesperson, said hoaxes or terrorist plots at shopping centres across the country were being targeted by the criminal underworld. “The shopping centre industry, like other industries, is forced to up the ante against criminal activity to ensure the safety of staff, tenants and, most importantly, shoppers. This is another disruptive force to impact the already strained shopping centre and retail industry in South Africa,” Mokubela said.