South Durban Community Environmental Alliance
9 January 2003
Merebank residents again overcome by toxic gas
Dozens of residents of the Dinapur Road Flats in Merebank, South Durban, have spent the night in a terrible state after being overcome by gases last night from 5pm onwards.

Residents experienced nausea, choking, coughing, wheezing when a storm erupted, which seemingly caused a toxic leak from the Engen Refinery into a canal running near the council flats.

"They are killing us with the pollution, they have a 'don't care' attitude to us in the flats because we are poor," said Meera Rajkumar, Exec Member of the Dinapur Road Flats Body Corporate.

The residents are demanding that Engen must come to the area with a doctor as nobody can afford to go to private doctors. They are preparing to march on Engen today if they don't get answers.

Last night, the residents called the police and fire brigade but nobody came.

Cameron Smith, 1 year and 7 months old, has a temperature this morning after coughing and wheezing all night. He has been vomiting this morning, along

Engenís Pollution Complaint line has twice refused to provide any information as to what can have caused the toxic leak. Attempts to get hold of Engen executive Pieter Lamprecht were unsuccessful.

Residents from as far away as Wentworth experienced the smell. Residents also experienced a strong ammonia smell on Tuesday night. When this was reported to Engen, they simply brushed off the incident saying that they donít use ammonia.

SDCEA is disgusted that every time there is a storm, an inevitable process of nature, the refineries spew out clouds of toxic smoke and leak gases into the community. These multinational-owned industries claim to be technologically advanced, yet they are unable to set up basic systems to keep their plants running without polluting during storms.

SDCEA is also disgusted that the Cityís pollution reporting lines have been diverted to the Fire Department, yet when residents call the Fire Department as they did in this case, nobody comes to their aid. SDCEA would like to remind the City that they are there to serve the people and that City Health is there to protect the health of ordinary residents, not to protect the polluters.