UNKNOWN man wearing the mask with a lot of bag of drugs off loading them from a wheelbarrow taking them out of the hout house in Kloof PICTURE BONGANI MBATHA

Durban - A ring of steel has been thrown around the Kloof house that until this week hid a R3 billion drug lab.

Yesterday police called in an environmental cleaning company to help them remove bags of drugs from the house and seal them into containers.

This follows the raid on Tuesday night where 10 tons of what is suspected to be methaqualone powder was recovered.

The substance is the main ingredient in Mandrax.

With a possible street value of R3bn, the haul is South Africa’s biggest drug bust.

Yesterday at least 15 police vehicles, including armoured vehicles, and about 45 officers secured the site.

They were stationed on the street, outside the house and within the property.

Several employees from pollution control company Drizit Environmental packed the drugs into clear plastic bags.

The bags were then placed into blue containers.

They did so dressed in white gear and masks designed to protect them from chemical exposure.

Employees on site refused to comment.

A police source at the scene, who would not be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media, said the drugs were going to a forensic lab for testing.

“I am not sure where the drugs are going from here but I know that they are going to be taken to the lab for testing and will thereafter be sent to Pretoria,” he said.

He confirmed that cleaning operations began early yesterday morning and were expected to go on for the next three days.

“This is a big job. We can’t expect it to be done overnight, and because we are dealing with such a large quantity it is going to take a while to clear. I don’t know when, where or how they are going to be destroyed,” said the source.

While the clean-up operation was under way senior police officers were planning an elaborate operation to secure the drugs as they are transported to Pretoria, where each bag will be tested and weighed.

Police are still deciding whether to transport the drugs by road or by air.

Whatever the case, it is likely to involve a highly elaborate security operation.

Several police units are on standby, including the police air wing.

Meanwhile, neighbours in the area spoke to the Sunday Tribune about their suspicions surrounding the house.

Faith Campbell, who moved into a neighbouring property four months ago, said she always knew something “fishy” was happening on the property, but couldn’t figure out what it was.

“I always heard funny noises. The sound of machinery used to go on from around six in the evening and I would still hear it during the early hours of the morning. Sometimes my sleep would break at 2am with all the noise going on,” said Campbell.

Another neighbour, who lives opposite the house but did not want to be named, said that on Tuesday afternoon there had been a strange vinegar-like smell in the air and she could not make sense of where the smell was coming from until she heard about the drug bust the next morning.

She said the clothing hanging on the line since Tuesday suggested that the suspects had been sleeping in the house.

She also said that she believed a woman who posed as a domestic worker was part of the syndicate.

“I used to see a woman with dreadlocks walking to and from the home every morning and afternoon,” said the neighbour.

“I believe that she could have been a runner for the operation because I haven’t seen her since the incident occurred.”

Police sources said the focus was on analysing the drugs and gathering as much evidence as they could from the scene.

Spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane would only say that the matter was under investigation.

He stressed that they could not divulge further information about the drugs at this stage. - Sunday Tribune