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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Witbank residents evacuated as tanker leaks toxic gas after a 3-truck collision on N12

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Residents of eMalahleni at Tasbet Park were forced to evacuate their houses after a truck transporting ammonia was involved in a collision on the N12 causing the toxic gas to leak and fill up the area.

Some residents reported hearing a loud explosion-like sound when the accident happened just before midnight.

Minutes later they were woken up by the toxic gas which caused coughing and irritation in the nose.

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Reports suggest that the gas tanker truck collided into another truck loaded with energy drinks.

The third truck managed to avoid crashing into the first two trucks involved but a car came and crashed into it.

Motorists who arrived at the scene soon thereafter were forced to abandon their vehicles and run to safety as the vapour of ammonia filled the air.

Residents living near the scene on N12 reported having difficulty in breathing and experiencing burning sensations in their mouths, noses and throats.

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Emergency personnel responded to help those who were affected by the toxic fumes setting up a temporary treatment centre at a local shopping centre parking lot.

Emergency workers from different groups, police, the community policing forum and SA Community Crime Watch group began assisted with evacuations in parts of the suburb affected by the gas.

In one video taken by a resident, locals could be seen in their cars and queuing to get out of the area.

“It feels like we are dying here,” says the person shooting the video.

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Residents and emergency workers communicating over the SA Community Crime Watch public channel began sending messages to the channel to describe the situation.

“To all members of the public, the N12 is closed travelling from Johannesburg towards Witbank. There’s been a major truck accident with ammonia gas leaking. All houses and businesses in the vicinity should close their windows please. We need fire department assistance on the N12,” was one of the audio messages sent by officials onto the channel.

Shortly thereafter, the message was updated, with people urged to get out of their houses and evacuate the area.

“We ask that you guys please get out of your houses so you can move out of the fumes. It is extremely bad there.

The N12 was temporarily closed to traffic as emergency workers tried to contain the spillage.

According to paramedics, around 150 people have been checked for respiratory distress and four have been hospitalised.

One of the truck drivers reportedly suffered an injury to his arm. No fatalities were reported.

The cause of the accident was not immediately clear.

By 05h00 the smell of ammonia still lingered in the air but residents have since been allowed to return to their homes.

The amount present at that time was no longer lethal.

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