A notice board at the Mobeni Heights crematorium stating that there are no cremations due to the fact that the gas needed is not available nationally

Crematoriums in KwaZulu-Natal have been hit the hardest by the countrywide shortage of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

The eThekwini Municipality’s head of Parks, Recreation and Cemeteries, Thembinkosi Ngcobo, said the situation had reached crisis point with less than 90 percent of crematoriums in the city operating.

“If the situation does not improve in the next two days, we will have a total shutdown. We cannot operate without the LP gas. Six months ago we faced a similar threat. But, thankfully a crisis was averted. This time, it appears to be much worse. We have a real problem on our hands.”

The shortage of LPG was also affecting the hospitality, manufacturing, automotive and recreational use sectors.

The Department of Energy, on Thursday, confirmed the shortage of LPG and expressed concern that four refineries were not in position to produce the gas because of unplanned maintenance shutdowns. It said ageing infrastructure at refineries was becoming problematic and a long-term solution needed to be found urgently.

The department said the shortage of LPG was affecting economic activity and the provision of energy to households.

In the past few days, three crematoriums in the eThekwini Municipality, which use gas to power its furnaces, have shut their doors. If gas supplies are not restored in the next few days, cremations in the province could grind to a complete halt by the next week.

Last Friday, the Mobeni Heights Crematorium in Chatsworth closed its doors, followed by Stellawood on Monday and Verulam on Thursday.

Clive Moodley, owner of Pinetown Funeral Services, said the gas shortage had resulted in huge inconvenience to grieving families.

He said they were now forced to use the Clare Estate Crematorium which meant an added cost to many already cash-strapped communities.

This was verified by Logan Chetty of the KZN Funeral Directors Association. “Clare Estate charges R1 150 per cremation. This is almost double the rate of Mobeni Heights Crematorium which is R650.”

Moodley described the situation as a crisis and said if gas supplies did not return to normal soon, cremations could stop completely.

Workers at both Mobeni Heights and Stellawood Crematorium said gas retailers had failed to make deliveries in the last week and could not confirm when supplies would return to normal.