Picture: Ross Jansen

Department of Labour officials are investigating the circumstances around a fire that claimed the lives of two workers at a factory in Jacobs, south Durban.

The fire started after an explosion just after midnight on Friday in the Chemical Technologies building on Brooklyn Road.

Firefighters spent about three hours trying to put out the blaze using foam as there were various chemicals in the building.

Mthobisi Mzilikazi, also known as “Masi”, and Melusi-mxolisi Tsoletsi, also known as “Justice”, were killed.

eThekwini fire department spokesman Justin Bateman said it was not yet known whether the men had been killed in the explosion or whether they had died of smoke inhalation.

Wentworth police spokesman Lieutenant MP Gumede confirmed the deaths and said an investigation into the fire was still under way.

Department of Labour spokesman Jay Anand said investigators had visited the site on Friday and were conducting preliminary investigations

“These investigations will be carried out in conjunction with the Occupational Health and Safety Act,” he said.

“We are trying to determine the cause of the incident as well as who is responsible.”

The owner of the Chemical Technologies building, Jerry Deonarain, said he did not know the cause of the fire.

“We are waiting for the investigation to be completed and then we will go back to work,” he said.

Desmond D’Sa of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliances, who witnessed the fire, said there were three explosions.

“The first one shook up all the families who live close to the building, and residents ran out of their homes to see what was going on,” he said.

“Then we heard a second and third explosion.”

D’Sa said residents had heard screams coming from inside the building, and then it went quiet.

He said neighbouring companies and residents were worried about the repercussions of fire spreading.

He said communities had suffered from “environmental assaults ranging from chemical emissions to regular plant upsets and explosions”.

D’Sa said an emergency plan for factories in the area was still a “pipedream”.

He added that the alliance would meet with community members and decide on a plan of action.

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