This image was taken a distance away from the inferno which tore the Paintchem factory in Verulam. PICTURE: REACTION UNIT SOUTH AFRICA

A paint factory in Lakeview Road in Riverview, Verulam, was gutted by fire that tore through most of the building and forced the evacuation of nearby residents last night.

Fire crews rushed to the scene from the Durban North fire station and were supplemented by crews from fire stations in the surrounding area.

Verulam resident Devon Moodley said that he was able to see the flames from the burning factory from a distance of 2km.

He estimated the flames top have reached 100m in height and said that explosions were occurring in the factory “every minute”.

Prem Balram, the head of security company Reaction Unit South Africa, told The Mercury that the police and security guards had cordoned off an area of about 300m around the blaze.

“Ten security guards who were stationed at the factory were treated by paramedics for minor injuries and for inhalation of the hazardous fumes,” he said.

Balram said it was believed that the fire had started at the Paintchem factory, and that the adjacent Frimax chips and Budget Soap factories had to evacuate their staff.

Seven fire engines were still fighting the fire at the time of going to press.

Officials were investigating the cause of the blaze.