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Pupils hospitalised after alleged gas leak in Richards Bay, councillor says 'after breathing in the air' he felt 'sick and weak'

Several pupils were treated by paramedics and taken to hospital yesterday at Richards Bay Hoërskool after a suspected gas leak from a nearby company.

Pupils and residents were taken to hospital following an alleged gas leak in Richards Bay. Picture: Netcare 911

Published Feb 8, 2022

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DURBAN - SEVERAL pupils were treated by paramedics and taken to hospital yesterday at Richards Bay Hoërskool after a suspected gas leak from a nearby company.

Netcare 911 spokesperson Shawn Herbst said its paramedics responded to the incident yesterday morning.

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“Netcare 911 responded to a suspected gas inhalation at a school as well as homes in the surrounding area of Richards Bay. Reports from the scene indicate that children as well as adults developed nausea, vomiting, difficulties in breathing with many who collapsed.

“It is believed an unknown gas had been blown in the direction of the school and surrounding area.”

Herbst added that the source of the gas was still to be determined.

“The children were removed to a safer area where they were treated and then transported to hospitals and clinics in the Richards Bay and Empangeni areas.”

Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu said the department’s district director had gone to the school to gather more information.

Most of the pupils were discharged from hospital later in the day, he said. “Of the 37 learners who were taken to hospital, 36 have been discharged.”

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City of uMhlathuze Municipality spokesperson Mdu Ncalane said that assessments were being conducted to determine if the incident was caused by a gas leak.

“We cannot say it was a gas leak at this stage. We have our air quality team that will be conducting tests at the laboratory to determine if it was indeed a gas leak. This test will determine if the suspected gas is toxic or can make a person sick. It will also determine what effects it will have if a person inhales it.

“We can only determine this once tests have been completed. We will then issue a full statement on our findings.”

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Henning de Wet, DA chief whip and councillor in Richards Bay, said he had felt sick yesterday morning after breathing in the noxious air.

“After breathing in the air, I felt very sick and weak.”

De Wet said he believed that the suspected gas leak was from the Foskor factory.

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Sandy Camminga, of the Richards Bay Clean Air Association (RBCAA), said that the association had approached Foskor regarding the incident.

“The RBCAA has been informed by Foskor that following investigations no process upsets could be identified at Foskor that would have resulted in the ‘gas’ incident.”

She said the RBCAA would engage further with Foskor management.

Camminga added that if anybody was affected by the incident they should contact the RBCAA.

Foskor was contacted by The Mercury but it had not responded by the time of publication.

THE MERCURY

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