Govt probes owner of Ammonia truck that forced Witbank evacuation

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Govt probes owner of Ammonia truck that forced Witbank evacuation
MIDNIGHT GAS: The Mpumalanga department of environmental affairs says it wants a full report on the cause of the ammonia leakage that caused a midnight evacuation of the Tasbet Park area in the early hours of Monday morning south of Witbank. PICTURE BY Legacy Emergency

Officials say the accident occurred when three trucks hit each other on the highway.


The Mpumalanga government says they will wait for a full report from the owner of the truck that was transporting Ammonia gas and got involved in an accident forcing people in suburbs near the highway to evacuate their homes in the dead of night.

The government said they were concerned that “lives were put at risk” in the early hours of morning Monday and were going to investigate whether safety routines were followed by the driver of the truck that was transporting the toxic gas.

Ammonia gas has a sharp suffocating odour and can lead to the collapse of your breathing system as well as a dysfunction of the brain’s systems.

The accident happened on Monday (4 May) just after midnight on the N12 near the eMalahleni suburb of Tasbet Park.

Community safety departmental spokesman Moeti Mmusi said the collision involved three trucks and a sedan. 

He said it led to Ammonia chemical spillages…

Preliminary Investigations

“The preliminary investigation suggests that the side swipe crash occurred when one of the trucks was attempting to overtake another truck,” Mmusi said. 

He said a third truck collided into the second one. A sedan was also involved. 

“One of the trucks was transporting energy drinks. The ammonia further leaked into the a nearby drainage system and this subsequently affected household,” he said.

Govt probes owner of Ammonia truck that forced Witbank evacuation
Tasbet Park residents packed the parking lot of the Reyno Ridge shopping centre trying to escape the gas

Scores of Tasbet Park residents were evacuated to places of safety as the midnight toxic smell engulfed the whole area near the accident scene.

Environment MEC Vusi Shongwe said they are busy investigating and were waiting for a full report from the owner of the truck.

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Dismayed

Shongwe said his department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs was “dismayed that lives were placed at risk”.

He said after receiving an alert about the spillage he sent a team of officials to go to the scene.

“We will wait for the company which owns the truck to formally report to government within prescribed time frame,” Shongwe said.

He thanked the eMalahleni Municipality for providing transport to the scores of residents when they had to be evacuated.

He said they want “detailed information” on the incident as well as the number of litres of ammonia that had spilled. 

“We also sent our own officials to the scene to establish facts in ensuring that the company contains the spillage to the receiving environment in terms of section 30 of the National Environmental Management Act ( Act 107 of 1998).

“As a department we are particularly worried about the negative effects posed by Ammonia to the environment and human beings,” said Shongwe.

“We understand that it was an accident but a meticulous investigation must still be conducted. We cannot gamble with human life especially as we are faced with Covid-19 and other health threatening infections,” he said.

(edited by MLM)

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