Joburg CBD declared unsafe following underground gas explosion

Safety cannot be guaranteed in the central business district (CBD) in Johannesburg, according to Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi.

“We cannot guarantee that the area is safe until the investigations are concluded, because there is no confirmation regarding the cause of the explosion,” said Lesufi on Thursday.

Briefing the media at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, Lesufi said they are relying on the Department of Labour to provide a detailed report on the underground gas explosion.

In the meantime, he urged people staying and working in South Africa’s economic hub and businesses to treat the area as unsafe.

“The area might have secondary effects. Until all these reports are finalised, we do not advise that people, who are not authorised, to access it,” he said.

“We will unleash barbed wires across all the areas that have been identified as the crime scene and a danger to society, so that there is no movement at all.”

Turning to the movement of people in the affected area, Lesufi said they will be issuing permits to the residents to make their movements trouble-free.  

The premier revealed that interviews with all the institutions that have underground networks have been conducted, saying all of them insist their systems are still intact.

“It was initially believed that the cause of the explosion was natural gas, however, based on a preliminary report by the Department of Labour, there needs to be a proper investigation to identify the type of gas that may have been the cause.”

Provincial police commissioner General Elias Mawela applauded the hawkers who sacrificed their incomes after they were instructed to vacate the area.

“I want to appreciate the business community in the city centre, especially the hawkers, who did not make any money today because they responded to our call,” said Mawela.

“Others were still putting their stands together, and as we called, they packed up and left. They made our job easy.”

The explosion on Bree Street on Wednesday afternoon killed one person and left more than 40 people injured. Scores of vehicles including minibus taxis were also damaged.


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