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Paint factory blast in Verulam
24 Jan 2012
Jonathan Faurie

DESPITE no indications that negligence was involved in a paint factory explosion in Verulam on Sunday night, the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) yesterday described the chemical industry as “rotten to the core”.

The factory explosion is the second to rock the Durban area in three days. On Friday morning in Jacobs, two men died in another chemical inferno as 100 people gathered helplessly outside the blazing factory.

eThekwini fire department divisional commander for the northern region, Bruce de Gier, said firefighters from Umhlanga, Tongaat and Durban North were called to the scene just after 9.30 pm.

The Witness was not successful in getting comment from the factory owners.

Although there were no injuries or deaths in Sunday’s fire, SDCEA spokesperson Desmond D’Sa said the chemicals and petrochemicals industry “has been getting away with murder”.

“Explosions like these happen and there are no prosecutions or sanctions imposed on the company. The Department of Labour comes and conducts investigations and hands the offending companies slaps on the wrists,” said D’Sa, adding that the second explosion in the space of three days is a cause of concern.

The industry has been given significant media attention after an explosion at the Sasol Refinery near the old Durban airport in September last year resul­ted in diesel shortages.

“A major concern is that these factories are located near poor communities … What are major companies and the Department of Labour doing to resolve this?” said D’Sa. “There needs to be greater public participation when inspecting these companies or investigating incidents such as these.”

The Labour Department said they are investigating the cause of the Verulam fire.

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