Gas cloud kills three in Cape
South African tragedy: Fire at sulphur stockpile left over from days of apartheid causes havoc in quiet community
Monday 18 December 1995
The fire that caused the disaster began in a field close to the town of Macassar late on Saturday. It quickly spread to the African Explosives and Chemical Industries (AECI) plant at nearby Somerset West, about 25 miles from Cape Town. Stored at the plant were 15,000 tons of sulphur, part of the former apartheid government's strategic stockpiles for its internationally boycotted military and civilian industries.
Almost immediately a cloud of dense, toxic smoke billowed over the area, forcing 2,500 people to flee in an assortment of cars, fire engines, police lorries and ambulances.
"We just saw a bundle of smoke coming over our place...we first thought it was just grass burning but then we smelt gas,'' David Ross, a Macassar resident, said after he was evacuated. ''Our eyes and noses were stinging and our chests were so tight. We had difficulty breathing."
At least 100 people were treated for smoke inhalation and later released. By yesterday afternoon the crisis was contained and people were allowed to return home.
Strong winds and quick action by Cape emergency services were credited with saving hundreds of lives, but the question was asked: why were dangerous chemicals stored so close to residential areas.
- 2 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 3 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
- 4 6-year-old writes ice cold Valentine's card to his stepmother
- 5 Syrian child photographed 'surrendering to camera because she thought it was a gun'
Rape threats, death threats and a police investigation after video poking fun at an Islamic Party in Malaysia goes viral
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
6-year-old writes ice cold Valentine's card to his stepmother
Jeremy Clarkson to become 'special adviser on transport' to David Cameron
Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
Revealed: Putin's army of pro-Kremlin bloggers
Katie Hopkins reported to the police for race hatred by Labour MP Simon Danczuk after tweet about Pakistani men
£22000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...
£23000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing boutique prac...
£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...