South Durban residents battle toxic factory smoke, some experienced chest pains, itchy eyes, coughing
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DURBAN - RESIDENTS in Jacobs, south of Durban, have been battling the effects of smoke pollution after a fire broke out at a chemical factory early yesterday.
The South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) said some residents had complained of chest pains, itchy eyes and coughing.
Affected areas included Wentworth and Merebank, but because of a change in wind direction, Clairwood, Montclair, the Bluff and Mobeni were also at risk.
According to the Durban Central Fire acting divisional commander, Sifiso Mtshali, more than 50 firefighters were dispatched to the chemical factory, KZN Resins (Pty) Ltd.
Speaking to The Mercury at the scene, Mtshali said a call was received just after midnight and a team from the Jacobs Fire Station arrived 10 minutes later. Mtshali said more than 10 response vehicles assisted.
“The fire was huge. We also had about four water carriers to complement the water supply in the area,” he said.
After more than 10 hours, the fire department extinguished the fire. Mtshali said the cause of was unknown and investigations were ongoing.
The company’s management refused to comment, saying it was busy with the investigation.
Desmond D’Sa, SDCEA co-ordinator, said: “When we got there in the early hours, people were complaining and sick. We contacted the municipality and health department to bring the mobile clinic with medical doctors.”
EThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said: “As a precautionary measure, residents are advised to close their windows and doors and refrain from outdoor activities in impacted areas.”
The Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (Edtea) department in KZN said a team of specialists, comprising district management and specialists in air-quality management, pollution and waste management and compliance, was dispatched to the factory yesterday.
Edtea MEC Ravi Pillay said they would seek to establish what hazardous substances had been released into the environment and what had caused the fire.
“This will allow us to give direction on the required remedial action and will also inform what enforcement action we institute.
“Working with eThekwini Municipality and other stakeholders we will be closely monitoring developments around this incident,” Pillay said.