Botched fuel theft on Transnet pipeline in Durban believed to be cause of fire that claimed three lives
Three people have died in an attempted fuel theft incident on the Transnet fuel pipeline in Durban in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Transnet Pipelines, a Transnet division which is the custodian of the country’s 3,800km of high-pressure petroleum and gas pipeline network in the Durban to Gauteng corridor, received notification of a fire at Horseshoe Road in Clairwood, Durban.
The fire is in close proximity to the fuel pipeline.
“The Transnet Pipelines national operations centre immediately shut down the pipeline and activated the emergency response plan.
“Emergency response teams, including eThekwini Disaster Management, SAPS, fire departments and spill response are currently on site,” Transnet said.
It said the preliminary assessment indicated a botched fuel theft incident on the pipeline, and investigations were ongoing.
“All the city’s emergency personnel were dispatched immediately to respond to the blaze,” said eThekwini municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela.
He said the teams on site reported that the fire was caused by a petrol tanker catching alight. Petrol had flowed down into a nearby river and a secondary fire started in the Transnet pipe.
“As a result, Transnet has closed all its valves,” he said.
Transnet said in a statement the current focus was to extinguish the fire and minimise the impact on the community and environment.
It said there had been an unprecedented spate of fuel theft incidents on the pipelines and the associated infrastructure during the last two years.
“Due to the inherent dangers of tampering with high pressure petroleum pipelines, these incidents have resulted in fire and other asset damage, as well as environmental incidents, with high remediation costs.”
Transnet said it has implemented various security measures to address the theft attempts, some of which have yielded positive results.
“To date, 159 arrests have been made, 254 criminal cases opened, 57 fuel tankers and 54 vehicles impounded.”
The interventions implemented thus far have ensured a reduction in the number of incidents and Transnet Pipelines had not experienced an incident on the pipeline since July this year.
Transnet said it continued to work with law enforcement agencies to stop this criminal activity and keep the pipelines and surrounding communities safe.
“As the pipelines traverse many rural, semirural and urban areas we continue to appeal to any persons living near the pipelines or driving past, especially at night, to report any suspicious activities for example bakkies, fuel tankers in the area of the block valve chambers or near our pipeline markers,” Transnet said.