City of Joburg officials allay fears of lethal pockets of gas in CBD basements

Engineers assess the damage on Bree Street.
Engineers assess the damage on Bree Street.
Image: Antonio Muchave

The gas explosion in the Johannesburg CBD could pose a fatal threat to subsoil cavities such as building basements but so far, nine buildings have tested negative, the City of Johannesburg said on Friday. 

The busy Lillian Ngoyi (formerly Bree) Street collapsed on Wednesday afternoon when an underground gas pipeline exploded. One person died, nearly 50 others were injured and scores of vehicles and taxis damaged in the blast.

The city said it had assessed gas leaking into the atmosphere and inspected buildings adjacent to the collapsed road.

“We ... have been assured by the environmental services and air quality controllers of the city that the gas leaking into the atmosphere poses no risk to residents as its concentration reduces rapidly in open air. However, gas leaks into subsoil cavities such as basements can be fatal,” city manager Floyd Brink said. 

Brink said they had inspected basements in the area but so far only one was not yet in the clear. 

“As per our commitment on Thursday, we have since inspected a total of nine buildings in the area and our test results at this stage are negative. We have struggled with access to one building and we will finalise the test once we have gained access.”

Meanwhile, only three of the 48 injured remain in hospital while the rest have been discharged.

During her visit to some patients at Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital on Thursday, health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko found none of the injured showed signs of gas inhalation. Instead, the common injuries were fractures, muscle and soft tissue injuries. 

Experts told TimesLIVE on Thursday that buildings near Bree Street were likely affected by the explosion but the integrity of the structure of the buildings was dependent on their foundations.

But Brink assured residents that the buildings adjacent to the collapsed road were secure enough for occupation.

“[The buildings] have been inspected and at this stage, no signs have been detected and the buildings are regarded structurally sound for occupation.”


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