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34 vehicles damaged in Joburg CBD explosion as gas fingered as most likely cause

Johannesburg streets closed amid an explosion on Bree Street.
Johannesburg streets closed amid an explosion on Bree Street.
Image: Bathandwa Malingo

Officials have confirmed that 34 vehicles were damaged by an underground explosion in the Joburg CBD on Wednesday as the number of injured people was revised to 48 and gas emerged as the most likely cause.

The explosion in the central business district caused panic as a busy street caved in, with several vehicles blown off the road or toppled by the force of the blast. 

TimesLIVE reporters on the scene described the intense smell of gas lingering in the air. 

Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi on Thursday morning gave an update on the investigation into the cause of the explosion as well as the impact it had on civilians and property.

“Because we are suspecting gas, we've now formally brought in all institutions that deal with gas. We now have Egoli Gas, Sasol and we are bringing in anyone that has either underground pipes or cables. Telkom, water and any institution that we really believe will assist us to determine the cause and also give us the necessary advice.

“We've also brought in City Power, who have since taken a decision to switch off the Bree Street substation so that the team can go in and identify the cause.”

Lesufi confirmed that Egoli Gas, which had said it was “unlikely” the explosion was caused by a gas pipeline or leak, was assessing and rehabilitating the pipeline where necessary.

It also remained a “centre of focus” in the probe into the cause, according to Lesufi, because “all of us agree that the cause of this explosion is gas”, he said.

He also explained that Sasol's pipeline runs at the periphery of where the explosion occurred. Joburg water and environmental health are also checking for any gas leaks, Lesufi said.

“Even though Egoli Gas insists that it's not their pipeline, we all know and it's common knowledge that there is a [strong] smell of gas in the area. So the teams from environmental health are assisting us to determine where this gas comes from.”

The premier confirmed that 34 vehicles, four private and the rest taxis, were affected by the explosion and that most of them have since been handed back to their owners.

Even though Egoli Gas insists that it's not their pipeline, we all know and it's common knowledge that there is a [strong] smell of gas in the area. So the teams from environmental health are assisting us to determine where this gas comes from

He also provided details on the reported fatality and number of those injured. 

“Unfortunately, during the process of handing over the vehicles that were affected to their owners, we found the body of a male underneath the cars and that particular body has not been identified and we're trying to locate relatives. The body was discovered at the corner of Lillian Ngoyi and Joubert street. It was stuck underneath the cars.

“The collated information about the number of people injured now stands at 48 but currently we only have 12 patients remaining in hospital. The rest have been discharged,” he said.

Various major roads in the CBD have since been closed off and traffic redirected as an investigation continues.

Lesufi confirmed that alternative accommodation had been provided for those who had been evacuated.

TimesLIVE


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