Tanker goes up in flames
GRAAFF-REINET — High lying areas surrounding Graaff-reinet were blanketed in snow on Sunday, July 16.
While most of the snow had melted into a frosty sludge by Monday morning, photos and videos recording Sunday’s white landscapes abounded on social media.
While beautiful to look at and play in, snowfall makes travelling risky, especially along one of the district’s busiest roads, the N9.
Emergency services were on high alert throughout the weekend with two serious accidents occurring on the N9 between the Lootsberg Pass and Graaff-reinet.
On Saturday morning just before 05:00 the municipal fire brigade received a call about a truck on fire about 40km from Graaff-reinet on the N9 towards Middelburg. The officers responded immediately and arrived on the scene at approximately 05:30 with the Emergency Medical Rescue Services.
A cargo tanker filled with unprocessed diesel was laying on its side on the road surface and huge flames engulfed the scene. The fire officers immediately started to extinguish the fire using the foam conductor. The diesel leaking from the tanker also set the veld on fire, but fortunately, the fire fighters managed to stop the fire from reaching the farmers’ veld area.
After approximately 35 minutes, the flames were extinguished, and another fire engine with extra foam cans was requested to deal with the spread of the fire. The fire fighters then concentrated on securing the unprocessed diesel spillages flowing into the veld that was still leaking from the tanker. As there were no refilling points, the manager of Protection Services, Chris Rhoode, drove to Nieubethesda to refill the fire engine with water from one of the fire hydrants there.
Soon the second fire engine arrived, and the crew concentrated on extinguishing the smouldering areas. When Rhoode arrived back on the scene, he continued to cool the tanker off in phases due to the excessive heat that had been experienced during the fire.
In the meantime, Traffic Control and the SAPS could not establish any contact details of the company from the driver in order to arrange for hazmat technicians to assist with stopping the leakages of the raw diesel contents.
Later, a faded landline number on the burned tanker was noticed and forwarded to officials from the Provincial Control room who managed to phone the company. The company then informed the Rhoode that they have made the necessary arrangements to assist with the removal of the cargo tanker.
Shortly before 14:30 the breakdown services were on site and started with the recovery of the tanker to clear the road.
“Our biggest challenge during the incident was that only one section of the road was available to let motorists pass by. We tried to keep the traffic flowing, but this was made more difficult initially as when we arrived at the incident, it was still dark and we had to perform our duties without getting knocked down by motorists passing the scene. Careful use had to be made of the fire engine’s water so as not to run out before the blazing tanker was extinguished,” said Rhoode.
Meanwhile, the Dr Beyers Naude Local Municipality has issued an urgent warning to any members of the community who might be in possession of any of this liquid. The cargo of the truck, although it smelled like normal diesel, is, in fact, a very low flash point flammable liquid in a raw stage. It has been emphasised that the liquid is highly flammable and will ignite if it comes into contact with heat, sparks or flames.
It could cause damage to diesel engines, and containers filled with this liquid may explode when heated. The vapour may form an explosive mixture with air. Inhalation or contact with the material may irritate or burn skin or eyes.
Those in the possession of this liquid should immediately isolate any clothing or shoes if they have become contaminated by being in contact with the liquid.
The technician from the hazmat company appointed to rehabilitate the scene stated that anyone with this material must inform the Fire Services immediately so that it can be destroyed.
Members of the community are also warned not to buy any suspect “cheap diesel” as it cannot be used in this raw state, and as explained, is highly dangerous.
A further accident occurred on Sunday evening at about 20:00 about 40km from Middelburg, also on the Lootsberg Pass. The driver of a taxi lost control and the vehicle overturned, which set up a chain of collisions involving another three taxis that collided with the overturned vehicle. A Volkswagen Polo then bumped into the taxis. In all, 19 people were taken to Middelburg Hospital, and it was extremely fortunate that there were no serious injuries.