At least 16 people, including children, have died after a gas leak in a South African slum near Johannesburg, emergency services said on Thursday, reviewing the death toll after some people were revived.
The disaster on Wednesday night, believed to be related to illegal mining activities, occurred in the informal settlement of Angelo, near the Boksburg district, east of Johannesburg.
“We have 16 confirmed deaths at the scene, and the intervention of the paramedics managed to revive some others, who were taken to the hospital,” the spokesman for the emergency services told the AFP news agency from the scene. emergency, William Ntladi.
Of those hospitalized, four are in a “critical” condition, while 11 are “serious but stable,” he said. One of them, who he described as a minor, was fully conscious, she added. Among the deceased are five women and three children.
Emergency services received a call around 8:00 p.m. local time about a gas explosion, but upon arrival they discovered it was “a gas leak from a cylinder” containing “poisonous gas,” Ntladi said.
“Because the scene is still unfolding, we are busy reviewing the entire affected area to determine the number of hospitalized victims,” he previously said.
Preliminary information suggests that the gas was being used “as part of illegal mining activities,” it added.
With a dizzying unemployment rate of over 32%, South Africa is home to thousands of illegal miners nicknamed “zama zamas”, which means “those who try their luck” in Zulu. Thousands of these unregistered miners pan for gold in outdated mines in arduous and often dangerous conditions.
The dangers of Johannesburg
Johannesburg, South Africa’s commercial hub, and its surroundings are built around mountainous earth dumps and cavernous shafts left behind by generations of mining companies that began mining during the gold rush of the 1880s.
Boksburg, a middle-class suburb of Johannesburg, was rocked last month by a magnitude 5.0 earthquake, suspected to be related to the maze of tunnels and underground shafts associated with illegal mining in the area.
The same suburb was also the scene of a massive gas tanker truck explosion that killed 41 people on Christmas Eve last year, when a truck carrying liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) got stuck under a bridge, causing a leak. and an explosion.
Among the victims were people and doctors who had come to the scene to help or see the trapped truck.
At a nearby hospital, dozens of patients and staff members suffered severe burns in the blast, which shattered windows and caused the roof to collapse.
*With AFP; adapted from its original in English