Gas leak tragedy claims 16 lives, including 3 children, in Johannesburg’s outskirts


Johannesburg’s outskirts were struck by a devastating tragedy when a toxic nitrate gas leak, employed by illegal miners for gold extraction in an informal settlement, resulted in the loss of 16 lives, including three young children. Local authorities and the police confirmed this heart-wrenching news on Wednesday, shedding light on the grim aftermath of the leak.

Initial reports from emergency services suggested the possibility of up to 24 fatalities in the Angelo settlement, situated on the outskirts of Boksburg. However, a thorough recount of the bodies led law enforcement officials and Premier Panyaza Lesufi of Gauteng province to officially announce the death toll as 16. The search for any potential additional casualties continued, with rescue teams meticulously combing the area for survivors.

Unfortunately, the victims’ bodies remained on the ground for several hours after the incident, awaiting the arrival of forensic investigators and pathologists. William Ntladi, spokesperson for the emergency services, expressed their inability to move the deceased, stating, “The bodies are still where they are on the ground.”

Heart-wrenching scenes unfolded as officials were observed tenderly covering the lifeless body of a child with a blanket. Another victim lay motionless beneath a white cloth, partially exposed by a shoe, as a section of yellow police tape cordoned off the area.

The deceased included three children aged 1, 6, and 15, while two individuals were rushed to the hospital for medical attention, according to the police. This tragic incident occurred in Boksburg, the same city where a horrifying event on Christmas Eve claimed the lives of 41 people when a truck carrying liquefied petroleum gas became wedged under a bridge and exploded.

Authorities identified the cause of the recent deaths as a leaked nitrate gas from a cylinder stored within a shack. Ntladi revealed that the canister had been emptied, allowing teams to conduct a meticulous search within a 100-meter radius of the site to ensure no additional casualties were overlooked.

Premier Lesufi shared videos on social media revealing the dusty interior of a shack, where at least four gas cylinders were visible on metal stands. The footage also showed the cylinder responsible for the leak lying on the floor near the shack’s entrance.

Authorities did not confirm whether the illegal miners, suspected of utilizing the gas cylinder, were among the victims. Illicit mining activities are prevalent in the gold-rich regions surrounding Johannesburg, as miners venture into closed and abandoned mines in search of remaining deposits.

Regrettably, fatal incidents, both above and below ground, are not uncommon. Recently, the South African government agency responsible for mining reported that a gas explosion in a disused mine in the central city of Welkom claimed the lives of at least 31 illegal miners. The mining agency attributed the explosion to methane gas.

The gas leak near Johannesburg serves as a somber reminder of the perils faced by both miners and local communities engaged in illicit mining operations. Addressing this ongoing issue and enhancing safety measures in these areas remain crucial concerns for authorities in South Africa.

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