South Africa assesses damage after gas truck explosion

JOHANNESBURG (HPD) — South Africa was investigating a gas truck explosion and fire near Johannesburg on Sunday as authorities put the death toll at 15.

The truck brushed against a low bridge in the town of Boksburg on Saturday, causing sparks and a fire. As firefighters tried to put out the flames, the truck blew up, according to emergency services.

The fireball caused extensive damage to the Tambo Memorial Hospital, located about 100 meters (110 yards) away, authorities said. Three hospital staff members were among the dead, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said.

The emergency and X-ray units suffered heavy damage, he added.

Residents who had gathered to see the fire fled in terror, some without their clothes because they had been burned, the News24 news portal reported. At least 321 injured were taken to the damaged hospital, but some were later transferred to other hospitals near Johannesburg.

Several homes and vehicles were also damaged by the explosion, authorities said.

“A ball of fire in the sky” is how Rolf Bjornstad, a local neighbor, described the scene to News24.

“There was heat coming into the house. I thought of my wife and children and helping the affected people,” she expressed.

The truck was carrying liquefied gas, which is used for heating and cooking in homes and industries. It was going from the South African port of Richards Bay to Botswana, authorities said. The question arose as to why the vehicle was traveling on a local road instead of a wide highway.

The incident is being investigated, said Tania Campbell, the mayor of Ekurhuleni, the municipality that includes Boksburg.

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