Johannesburg - The Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union (YNITU) says a proper disaster management system is needed to deal with disasters such as the December 24 Boksburg tanker explosion.
The union added that the country’s emergency services’ dominance by private service providers such as Netcare and others was proof that the government does not have the capacity to deal with disasters such as the recent tanker explosion and petrol tanker incident on Klipriver Drive, just a few days after the Boksburg incident.
This is after the explosion claimed 38 lives, including the lives of 12 healthcare workers, who were remembered during a healing ceremony organised by the province’s health department on Tuesday at the Boksburg Civic Centre.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the union’s secretary general, Lerato Mthunzi, said the provincial government should learn the hard lessons that come with disasters of this nature and not limit itself to holding ceremonies.
The Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union (YNITU) has noted that the Gauteng Provincial Government hosted a healing service to honour "fallen heroes" following the Boksburg tanker explosion.
"As YNITU, we are demanding that the provincial government, but also on the state as a whole, to learn lessons from this disaster and to take the necessary steps to ensure that if we ever endure such an incident in the future, the state is able to respond decisively and swiftly in order to limit the number of lives lost. We need much more than healing services. We need a proper disaster management plan and resources to deal with day-to-day emergencies," Mthunzi said.
One of the union’s members, Nompulelo Shezi, also died in the aftermath of the explosion after suffering severe injuries caused by the gas tanker blast. Shezi was celebrated by members of the unions and those gathered at the healing event.
Mthunzi said had there been a better disaster management plan, the death toll would have been lower than the current number of casualties, adding that emergency services should have been deployed to assist the driver, who was seemingly overpowered by the crowd that had gathered in spite of being told to evacuate the scene.
"It is our considered view that possibly the number of lives lost could have been reduced if we had a better disaster management plan to mitigate against incidents of this nature. According to an investigation by the ISS on the actions of the driver of the Boksburg gas tanker, he tried desperately to keep the public away from the scene of the incident. This was something he did on his own with the help of a security guard and one or two bystanders, but it seems there were no police to help him secure the scene and keep people away," she said.
Citing the Boksburg blast and the petrol tanker incident on Klipriver Drive just a week after the explosion, Mthunzi said it was clear that the provincial government and its emergency services were not equipped to deal with disasters.
"Twelve hours or more after the truck had crashed, it had not been removed from the road, and traffic had not been diverted away from the scene of the incident. If that truck had exploded at that time, there would have been another disaster. The state is not adequately prepared to deal with disasters of this magnitude," she said.