eThekwini Fire Department Regional Commander Alfred Newman said about 500 tons of pellets infused with mercuric chloride burned on Saturday night when the roughly 1800 square metre Metallica Chemicals warehouse was gutted. The cause of the fire was unknown yesterday.
Newman said they managed to control most of the fire within six hours and prevent it from spreading, and by yesterday afternoon they were damping the fire.
Smoke plumes extended far beyond the site of the fire and they notified nearby factories in the industrial complex of the incident and told them to evacuate if necessary, he said.
The fire department was also trying to suppress vapours from the burning products, and the roof had fallen on some products, said Newman.
Metallica Chemicals said they would not comment on the matter.
Environmental activist Desmond D’Sa expressed shock at the blaze and said the chemicals involved could affect people's lungs and liver. He said clean-up operations could take as long as three months.
Ward 1 councillor Bongumusa Mkhize said residents from KwaXimba could smell the chemicals in the air and wanted the government to intervene.
“We need to protect our environment,” he said