The tanker transporting liquefied petroleum gas got stuck under a bridge, according to officials and media reports.
Nine people have died and 40 others injured in Boksburg, a city east of Johannesburg, when a fuel tanker exploded, according to the emergency services.
The tanker, transporting liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), “got stuck under a bridge” close to a hospital and houses on Saturday morning.
“We received a call towards 7:50am (05:50 GMT) telling us a gas tanker was stuck under a bridge. Firefighters were called to extinguish the flames. Unfortunately, the tanker exploded,” William Ntladi, spokesman for the emergency services in the region, told the AFP news agency.
Videos shared by residents on social media showed the dramatic explosion, with pedestrians running away from the blaze and cars dramatically speeding away. Several houses and vehicles have been damaged by the explosion, according to local reports.
The tanker was reportedly delivering gas to the nearby OR Tambo Memorial Hospital, where some of the injured were treated. Patients in some units at the hospital had to be evacuated because of the explosion and fire, according to local media reports.
“Walking through here was just a sight of absolute devastation. I have never seen something like this ever before,” local resident Simon Lapping, told the local Citizen newspaper. He said he saw the bodies of six adults and two children.
Nineteen in critical condition
One of those injured was the driver who has been taken to hospital, Ntladi said. Of the 40 injured, 19 are in critical condition, while 15 others are seriously hurt but in stable condition.
Six firefighters were also lightly injured, he said.
There was no immediate information on those killed in the blast.
The truck was carrying 60,000 litres of LPG, which is used especially in cooking and gas stoves, and had come from the southeast of South Africa.
The incident will be investigated, said Tania Campbell, the mayor of Ekurhuleni, the municipality which includes Boksburg.
“The disaster management cluster is on-site assisting the victims of this tragedy and assessing the cause of the accident,” she said.
“On behalf of the city, the office of the executive mayor commits itself to assisting all role-players in ensuring that a comprehensive investigation takes place and those who are liable are brought to book.”