Sapref workers airlifted from flooded refinery

12 April 2022 - 13:32
By Suthentira Govender
Sapref oil refinery, south of Durban, has been flooded.
Image: via Facebook Sapref oil refinery, south of Durban, has been flooded.

A rescue mission is in progress at Sapref, a major crude oil refinery south of Durban, where workers were airlifted from the flooded plant.

A worker made an urgent plea for help on the Facebook page Wentworth (South Africa) Represent!, saying: “We need help at Sapref. Phone someone please. We really need to get out. Please help us.”

Images show large parts of the refinery plant submerged. Some people posted that they were seeking refuge on the roof while they waited to be airlifted to safety.

Sapref, SA’s largest crude oil refinery, is midway through a shutdown.

Petroleum companies Shell and BP announced they would pause operations in Durban by the end of March while they try to find a buyer.

A source with knowledge of operations said the flooding would not affect fuel supply as it is being imported.

Sapref’s sustainable development manager Hlengiwe Hlela said the refinery was flooded during the torrential rain in KwaZulu-Natal.

“Employees have managed to evacuate the buildings to higher ground.

“No injuries have been reported. The emergency response team is busy with a rescue mission and they are being airlifted to safety. Updates will be shared once we have more information,” said Hlela.

Workers at paper and packaging manufacturer Mondi, located in flood-ravaged Merebank  a few kilometres away from Sapref, were also evacuated.

Desmond D’sa, of the South Durban Environmental Alliance, said: “Both Mondi and Sapref are totally flooded. The canal near Mondi is bursting its bank.”