Petrol tank goes up in smoke after lightning strike

Engen refinery workers pumped petrol out of a blazing tank yesterday in an effort to douse a massive fire believed to have been caused by a lightning strike.

Engen refinery workers pumped petrol out of a blazing tank yesterday in an effort to douse a massive fire believed to have been caused by a lightning strike.

"They are trying to pump out most of the petrol while allowing the remainder to burn out," said refinery spokesman Herb Payne.

The 45m-high tank contained 7,5million litres of petrol.

This was after three unsuccessful attempts to put the fire out using a combination of water and foam.

"We are focusing on cooling down adjacent tanks to avoid the fire from spreading," he said.

The petrol generated large amounts of black smoke and, because of the heat, it rose high very quickly.

"The fire was fanned by a southwesterly breeze which has resulted in a plume of black smoke spreading north. Residents were advised by police to stay indoors and asked to stay away from the refinery gates to avoid hampering access of emergency services," Payne said.

An independent authority captured air samples that would be forwarded to a toxicologist to check if there were potential health risks.

A woman living near the refinery was rushed to hospital yesterday morning after having breathing difficulties, paramedics said.

Netcare 911 spokesman Chris Botha said: "She has been taken to hospital but we have had only one report like this so far."

Officials at the nearby Durban International Airport said planes were landing as normal.

The massive fire started at the refinery on Tara Road on Monday night at about 7pm.

All staff were accounted for and nobody had been evacuated from the area.

eThekwini Metro police cordoned off roads to residential areas adjacent to the refinery and Engen tankers were moved out of the refinery as a safety precaution.

On September 18 a number of storage tanks containing chemicals went up in flames. One person was burnt to death. - Sapa

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