Residents to pursue civil claim over Engen Refinery explosion

By Siboniso Mngadi Time of article published Dec 6, 2020

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Durban - South Durban residents living in the vicinity of Engen Refinery are preparing to launch a civil claim against the company following the explosion at the plant on Friday.

For years, they have complained about the health-hazardous smell of gas and fumes which had left many with respiratory diseases.

But Friday was probably the most traumatic experience for them as the blasts could be heard by people as far as Umlazi and Durban North.

Some residents were admitted to hospital for smoke inhalation, while a nearby block of flats caught fire after the explosion.

Sean Horood who lived opposite the entrance of the refinery said he wanted Engen to take responsibility for the damages.

He was among several residents who went to the Austerville Police station yesterday to file an affidavit in preparation for a civil claim. Their affidavits detailed their trauma and damages to their property.

“There have been many fires inside the refinery but we have never experienced such a blast as this.

I rushed to the door and opened it so my dogs could come in. For a moment I was not sure what was happening.

I then saw scores of the workers from the refinery running out for cover to the nearest park. The truck drivers who had been waiting outside left their trucks and ran for cover.

It was a traumatic experience for all of us. My house and boundary wall got cracks. My ceiling board almost collapsed,” he said.

Horood said they wanted Engen representatives to assess the damages caused to their homes by the blast.

Austerville resident, Mellow Jee said windows in many houses cracked.

“The blast was severe, a proper inspection in our houses is needed to determine the damages. Our kids must be taken for counselling, the noise will linger in their ears for a long time, it was too frightening.”

Gavin Smith, Engen Refinery spokesperson said no injuries were recorded and all refinery personnel have been accounted for.

Smith would not be drawn to comment about the assessment to residents damages.

Desmond D’SA, co-ordinator of the environmental justice organisation, South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), said they had experienced over 20 explosions since the refinery was built 66 years ago.

He had called to the refinery to be shut down citing health and environmental damages.

Ravi Pillay, MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs said the government would monitor the situation, adding that the Minister had sent experts to support the investigating team.

“Our main concern is the community. But we have been assured that the situation is now stable. We visited some of the residential units and have asked Engen to intervene.”

Sunday Tribune

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