Afrox in flames: Explosion linked to shutdown riots [video]

Andile Sicetsha - 14.07.2021

The Afrox facility has been torched. Early indications suggest that this may be linked to the shutdown riots.

UPDATE: We previously reported that the Afrox facility on Queen Nandi Drive, in Newlands East, had caught fire due to an explosion linked to the shutdown riots. Afrox has since released a statement quelling the speculation and confirmed that the explosion came from a building nearby. Thankfully, the facility was not harmed. See the statement below:

“Afrox’s centres in Durban remain secure and unaffected by rioting, contrary to media and Twitter speculation.

“At this time Afrox operations are continuing under emergency plans and supplies of medical oxygen to hospitals continue and, where necessary, this is carried out under police escort,” Afrox spokesperson Nolundi Rawana said.

In the midst of a savage COVID-19 third wave where oxygen is an essential resource that saves lives in hospitals, the last thing anyone in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) would want to lose is its biggest atmospheric gases supplier.

Watch: Afrox drowns in flames

However, this seems to be the case as it has been confirmed that the Afrox facility in Newlands East has been torched with several explosions heard in the wee hours of Wednesday.

At this time, no official statements have surfaced from the gases facility located on Queen Nandi Drive, where just down the road, the Game distribution warehouse was pillaged by looters on Tuesday.

Afrox provides gases and oxygen supply to hospitals and other industries and thus, it remains to be seen what impact this suspected arson attack will have on the fight against COVID-19.

Already, it’s feared that one of the consequences of the chaos seen in KZN these past six days will be a spike in infections, especially since the Delta variant, which is prevalent in the province, is highly transmissible.

According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), 873 positive cases were reported in KZN on Monday 12 July, bringing the total infection tally to 372 406. However, this number, it’s feared, could be a lot higher since many healthcare facilities and testing sites were forced to close down due to the shutdown riots.

KZN shutdown: Road closures for Wednesday 14 July

Early indications, on Wednesday, suggest that the shutdown riots are far from over. Although, the presence of SANDF operatives and law enforcement has slowed the momentum we witnessed in the past six days.

The clean-up operation has kicked off in some parts. Law enforcement officials, assisted by armed soldiers, were spotted clearing debris from N2 highway and reopening access for motorists, on Wednesday morning

A number of essential businesses in Durban, like petrol stations, have also cautiously reopened after two days of forced closure.

From what we understand, the N3 highway between Howick and Harrismith has remained closed due to ongoing threats of unrest in the area.

Moreover, the N2 highway between Port Shepstone and Durban was also reopened, as well as in the Mtubatuba/Hluhluwe region. However, with regards to the latter, truck drivers have been warned to proceed with caution.