Attempted theft caused a pipeline fire in Alberton, Ekurhuleni, on Tuesday, according to Transnet CEO Sibongiseni Khathi.
On Tuesday, Khathi said the pipeline was one of Transnet’s 3,800km, high-pressure petroleum and gas pipelines, which runs from Durban to Gauteng.
A primary fire, which was a combination of gas and petroleum, has since been contained, while a second fire, as a result of spilt petrol, was still burning at 11:00, according to Ekurhuleni Disaster and Emergency Services Management.
“Transnet pipelines have experienced an unprecedented spate of theft incidents on our pipelines and the associated infrastructure during the last few months.
“The latest incident occurred on the 31st December 2019 in Alberton, where an attempted theft incident at a block valve occurred on our Durban to Johannesburg petroleum pipeline between Alrode and Airport, which has resulted in petrol spillage and fire,” Khathi said in a statement shortly after the fire.
Khathi added that petrol also spilt out which emergency services officials were working to contain.
“The emergency response teams were activated and they are focusing on dousing the fire and containing the petrol spillage to minimise the risk to the community and the environment.
“Residents are requested to avoid the site, to not use their cellphones or smoke near the spillage and to follow the guidance of the emergency services [officials].”
He added that the theft and damage to high-pressure pipelines have resulted in fires, asset damage and environmental risks, which bear “excessive remediation costs”.
“An additional risk of the theft incidents is that the due to the nature of the petroleum products, some activities could result in serious injuries and/or fatalities,” Khathi added.
While Transnet has implemented numerous plans to curb theft and damage to Transnet property, which have yielded positive results, Khathi said criminal activity was increasing and ongoing, putting nearby residents in danger.
The blaze broke out on Tuesday morning, leading to an evacuation within a 500-metre radius.
According to Eric Maloka, spokesperson for Ekurhuleni Disaster and Emergency Services Management, no injuries or fatalities have been reported.
Residents are still urged to avoid the area until the fire completely dies down. The area is still being monitored, but all residences near the fire have been evacuated.
Transnet technicians are preparing to drain a portion of the gas and petrol pipeline that caught fire according to Maloka.
Maloka said a dam-type hole would be dug to catch the drained fuel so that it did not ignite.
While the primary fire – a combination of gas and petrol within the pipeline – is under control, a secondary fire caused by the spillage of fuel is still burning.
Maloka said firefighters would use foam to blanket the fuel spill to contain it.
— Yusuf Abramjee (@Abramjee) December 31, 2019
High pressure gas line on fire near Alberton ???????????? UPDATE. It’s a HIGH PRESSURE GAS LINE. EVACUATE AREA IMMEDIATELY. Sasol and Transnet en route pic.twitter.com/9pFUpONVwm
— BlueHawkTactical (@Bluehawktactic1) December 31, 2019
(Additional reporting by Nica Schreuder)