Durban – One of the men injured in a fire at the Sapref refinery south of Durban at the weekend has died.
The crude oil refinery, a joint venture between Shell SA Refining and BP Southern Africa, confirmed the death on Sunday through its spokeswoman, Cindy Govender.
Two other men who had been injured were recovering in hospital.
The company said the fire started at about 9.30pm on Friday on a pipeline at the Prospecton refinery.
“Sapref’s emergency crew responded immediately and the fire was quickly extinguished.”
The authorities had been informed and an investigation into the cause of the fire was under way.
“It is with sadness that Sapref confirms that one of the three employees who were injured in a flash fire on Friday has succumbed to his injuries,” Govender said.
The man, who has not been identified, died early on Sunday morning.
Govender said in the wake of the incident, the refinery would bring forward a planned site shutdown to this week.
The company said it processed 24 000 tons of crude a day.
“We produce 2.7 billion litres of petrol per year, which is enough fuel to take 800 000 cars around the world. We have 160 000km of pipe work (enough to go four times around the world),” it said.
“We operate at temperatures of up to 700ºC and at pressures up to 120 bar.”
Sapref has about 700 employees, 500 contractors and 208 “learners” at the refinery.
Emergency medical response teams declined to furnish the Daily News with details, because the refinery is classified as a National Key Point.
South Durban Community and Environmental Alliance co-ordinator, Desmond D’Sa, said on Sunday the fire had served as a reminder to residents around the processing plant that there was always the “threat of danger”.
“Living near a refinery can result in explosions or freak fires at any time. It is more dangerous than most areas,” he said.
D’Sa explained that maintenance and replacement of ageing infrastructure were “vital” in ensuring incidents like these were avoided.
“We also need a proper emergency evacuation plan so that people know where to go and what to do in the future.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Labour – which had already compiled a preliminary report – confirmed it would dispatch a team to the site of the blaze to meet management on Monday.