Call for intervention following N3 spill

Mop-up operations are under way after Friday’s gas spill on the N3 highway near Durban. ALS Paramedics

Mop-up operations are under way after Friday’s gas spill on the N3 highway near Durban. ALS Paramedics

Published Jun 16, 2024


Durban — An environmentalist has called on authorities in the province to intervene and ensure the safety of everyone who was exposed to Friday’s gas spill from a truck travelling on the N3 in Durban.

It is suspected that the spilt material was a carcinogenic substance.

According to eThekwini Metro Police spokesperson Boysie Zungu, the incident was believed to have been caused by an insecure load that was on the truck.

South Durban Community Environmental Alliance co-ordinator Desmond D’Sa urged the relevant authorities to ensure that those who were exposed to the chemical spillage, alleged to be hydrochloric acid, on the N3 near the Pavilion Shopping Centre received the necessary medical attention.

“Hydrochloric acid is dangerous. Just one drop into a person can impact their health and can result in cancer. So, the company and the health officials must be held accountable.

“The local health regulator should set up a health tribunal and include the company in question to be present and get those communities affected back to health because it could lead to long-term illnesses.”

The truck bearing suspected hazardous chemicals on the N3 in Durban. | ALS Paramedics

D’Sa said cancer doesn’t happen overnight ... It might take years, it might take months. One does not know the time.

“So, we would need health officials to explain how much hydrochloric acid was released. The people who were in the vicinity of the spillage should have health assessments done, which must be facilitated and paid for by the company. “It must be done soon.”

D’Sa said that it would be ideal for trucks carrying hazardous chemicals to have an exclusive alternative route.

“We need the trucks to move away to rail with all their products. Hazardous chemicals like hydrocholic acid should be moved in steel tanks, using rail transport,” he said.

According to Garrith Jamieson, spokesperson for ALS Paramedics, they had attended to five people who sustained inhalation injuries as a result of what was believed to be hydrochloric acid.

Two were policemen who were at the forefront of the incident, while the others were workers and motorists. Patients were stabilised and transported to various hospitals for further care.

Emergency services, including paramedics and the fire department, attended to the heavily congested scene.

In a statement released by the eThekwini Municipality, it was noted that inhalation of hydrochloric acid may cause eye, nose and respiratory tract irritation and inflammation in humans. Members of the public who may have been around the vicinity were advised to wear masks or cover their noses with a damp cloth to avoid inhaling the poisonous gas.

Gas clouds from the spillage scene waft through the air near the N3 in Durban. | ALS Paramedics

However, an update statement from the City received on Friday afternoon indicated that the municipality’s traffic officials and relevant emergency workers had opened the N3 westbound near the Pavilion Mall, heading towards Pietermaritzburg following the closure that occurred shortly after the spillage, around 7am.

Other impacted routes were the eastbound towards the Durban CBD.

The closure had also resulted in heavy traffic volumes on roads leading to the Pinetown CBD, M7 and M13.

Routes leading to Durban Westville also experienced heavy traffic volumes and motorists were diverted to alternative routes and encouraged to avoid the N3 until it was opened.

“Environmental scientists and officials are working on the scene to ascertain the type of substance that spilled over the road this morning,” said the City.

A KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health spokesperson said the eThekwini Municipality was better suited to respond to the questions sent by this publication.

Sunday Tribune