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Gas tanker clipped street light then all hell broke loose, says Worcester blast witness

An electrical shop, ACDC Express, was one of the businesses badly damaged in the blast.
An electrical shop, ACDC Express, was one of the businesses badly damaged in the blast.
Image: Western Cape Disaster Management

Six people were admitted to hospital after a gas tanker exploded in the middle of the Western Cape town of Worcester early on Wednesday.

Residents over a radius of several kilometres were woken just after 6am by a series of large explosions near a High Street petrol station.

Eyewitness Wimpie Majola said he was waiting for colleagues when he saw the tanker trying to make a turn. Its trailer made contact with a street light, rupturing the gas tank.

“Gas started bubbling out and the driver got out and ran. The rest of us also moved away from the area,” said Majola.

Then he saw a blue flame racing towards the tanker and the gas burst into flames. A nearby bakkie also caught fire, with the driver still inside.

The driver was taken to hospital with burns after being rescued by an unknown bystander.

Majola said there was a small explosion, followed by a massive blast, which sent large chunks of the truck flying and set several buildings on fire.

A department of water and sanitation administrative building was destroyed and the front cover of the large gas tank was lodged in the wall of a building.

The force of the explosion propelled the tank about 50m and a few scattered chunks of twisted metal were all that remained of the truck.

No one was killed in the incident, but firefighters launched a drone to search the surrounding area for hazardous materials or casualties.

Provincial traffic chief Kenny Africa said a member of the public heard the bakkie driver’s cries and ran to save him shortly before the third and final explosion.

At a briefing on the scene of the incident, he asked anyone with information about the hero’s identity to pass it on to the authorities so he could be honoured.

Majola said the blast shook the earth and he was hit by the shockwave and a wall of heat. “After the explosion everything went dark. The explosion killed the other fires,” he said.

Ashley Langley said he arrived when the tanker was still burning. He was filming with his phone about 50m away when the tank ruptured. In the video, firefighters can be seen in the foreground.

Two firefighters were among the wounded. Worcester fire chief TC Botha they were treated for minor wounds caused by shrapnel.

At noon, smoke was still rising from damaged buildings as firefighters sprayed water on the remaining hotspots. Breede River Municipality said surrounding streets would remain closed and extra police and security guards would be deployed to prevent looting.

A large part of the road was destroyed in the explosion and fire. It is not yet known whether the gas which was being transported was propane, as indicated on the tanker.

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