DURBAN – A chemical fire in the industrial basin of Durban.
The fire occurred at Hosaf, a fiber plant based in Mobeni, south of Durban, which produces polyethylene terephthalate resins and polyester fibers.
Rescue Care's Garrith Jamieson said the paramedics were called to the factory fire at about 4pm. "Fortunately no injuries were sustained, but the fire department and all the necessary players were attendance."
By 6.30pm, residents from the Bluff and Umbilo areas reported "a strong plastic smell," he said, as a strong wind carried the fume over a wide area.
Residents from as far as 10km away told the African News Agency (ANA) they had experienced the stench.
KwaZulu-Natal MEC for economic development, tourism and environmental affairs Nomusa Dube-Ncube said "a team of experts" had been assigned to examine the area.
"As government, we are fully aware that the South Durban Basin is heavily air-polluted with many people experiencing respiratory illnesses," said Dube-Ncube.
Desmond D'Sa, who lives in the Jacobs area and heads the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA), said the fire and stench was as a result of Dowtherm's use of industrial heat transfer systems.
"It has affected our eyes and it has affected our skin. Our eyes were burning. A lot of children were affected. Old people and babies have been particularly badly affected, "said D'Sa.
He said the plant was shut down and the SDCEA was expecting to meet with management.
ANA understands that the incident was escalated to the national department of environmental affairs.
Berea resident Robert Smith said the smell was "overbearing."
"The stench was so noxious that my family had to shut all the windows. At one stage, we even think of leaving the area for the evening. Our mouths were dry and eyes were stinging, my wife got a massive headache, "he said.
The fire follows a chemical spill in Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday, which was also escalated to the national department of environmental affairs.
In that event, the vegetable oil and caustic acid spilled into the Baynespruit stream and subsequently into the Msunduzi River, killing fish and livestock.
Clean-up operations were still being undertaken on Friday.
African News Agency (ANA)