During Johannesburg’s evening rush hour, a suspected underground gas explosion caused significant devastation in South Africa’s largest city on Wednesday. Over 20 cars were flipped, and roads were ripped open, leaving at least nine people injured. Though their injuries were not life-threatening, authorities evacuated other individuals from the area due to concerns of a potential second explosion or the collapse of multi-story buildings in the rundown downtown section.
The Premier of Gauteng province, Panyaza Lesufi, reported extensive damage, with an estimated area of five city blocks affected. He observed 23 overturned vehicles and witnessed huge cracks and holes in the roads, some of which were large enough to swallow vehicles.
While gas is suspected as the cause of the explosion along Johannesburg’s busy Bree Street, the source remains uncertain. It’s unclear whether the gas came from a leak in the city’s underground pipes or another unidentified origin. The local gas supplier, Egoli Gas, released a statement stating that it was unlikely that one of their pipelines caused the explosion, and their supply in the area was unaffected with no reported leaks by their investigators.
The incident occurred around 5 p.m. when many people were on the street, preparing to catch a minibus taxi, one of the most common commuting methods in South African cities. The explosion left several minibus taxis and cars overturned, with some piled on top of each other. Eyewitnesses recounted that people were inside some of the minibuses at the time of the explosion, which launched them into the air. After the blast, people were seen running as smoke emerged from a crack in the road.
A suspected underground gas explosion during Johannesburg’s evening rush hour caused chaos and destruction in South Africa’s largest city on Wednesday. More than 20 cars were flipped, and roads were ripped open, leaving at least nine people injured. Emergency crews were on the scene searching through mangled, overturned vehicles and nearby buildings, and authorities feared there might be more injured individuals. Surprisingly, no fatalities were reported, which was a relief to all involved.
One witness, who chose to remain anonymous, recounted being in his car when he heard a loud noise. The next moment, he found himself airborne as his car overturned. Fortunately, he escaped with only shaken nerves and no physical injuries.
As rescue efforts continued, the smell of gas permeated the area, raising concerns among rescue workers about the extent of the leaked gas and the potential hazards it posed. Gauteng province Premier, Panyaza Lesufi, cautioned that the site remained dangerous.
This incident follows a tragic toxic nitrate gas leak earlier this month that claimed 17 lives, including three children, in an informal settlement on the outskirts of Johannesburg. The leak was attributed to an illegal gold processing operation in the settlement.
As authorities work to assess the full extent of the damage and attend to the injured, safety measures and investigations into the cause of the explosion will be a priority.