Durban factory blaze 'up there with the biggest' fires in South African history

25 March 2017 - 10:15 By MATTHEW SAVIDES

The massive Durban south factory fire continued to rage on Saturday morning, keeping Durban blanketed by a thick black cloud of smoke.

But despite that plume spreading beyond Ballito - some 60km north of the South Coast Road factory - officials on the scene said initial assessments showed there was "no health risk" to residents.

Alex Gloster, a Durban Fire Department commander on the scene of the factory fire, said that firefighters had done a "world class job" to keep the blaze under control, even as it continued to burn. The fire broke out at about 9.30am at a close to 200 000 square metre Transnet-owned wax-production facility.

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"They're tired," said Gloster, who joined the fire department in 1993, of the firefighters. "They've done a world class job, in my opinion, and they're managed to get the fire under control.

"This is certainly the biggest fire of my career, and it is probably up there with the biggest, or is the biggest, [building] fire event in SA. That's purely a personal thing and will have to be quantified, but it's defintiely the biggest I've ever seen."

  • IN PICTURES: Massive factory blaze blackens Durban skylineTMG Digital photographer Jackie Clausen was on the scene of a massive fire that tore through a factory on South Coast Road, Durban south, on Friday morning.

The blaze left three firefighters injured, said Gloster - two of them suffering indirect burns due to the fierce heat from the building, while another got chemicals in his eyes. All were taken to hospital and were doing well.

Gloster said that most roads had been reopened and people have been allowed to access nearby factories and businesses.

Rescue Care paramedic Garrith Jamieson said at 6.30am: "The fire is still active. It's not as bad as it was around midnight-1am, but the fire is still burning."

And while many residents of Durban, and beyond, were worried about the health implications of the smoke, Gloster said checks done by the city showed there were no risks.

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"Readings showed there was no health risk. There was a smoke [inhalation] risk, but not a chemical risk. There is no direct health risk. The smoke is not noxious or toxic that would leave people in hospital or anything like that," he said.

The KZN environmental affiars department confirmed last night it would be assessing the risks, as would the eThekwini municipality.