Drone photos show Joburg blast tear from the air

Newly-released drone photos show the extent of the damage caused by a mysterious explosion in the Johannesburg CBD earlier this week.

The explosion ripped through roughly 400 metres of Lilian Ngoyi Street (formerly Bree Street) just before 17:30 on Wednesday, 19 July 2023.

The photos — posted by the Forum of Integrated Risk Management (FIRM) on Facebook — showed long cracks in the street and large chunks of road surface separated from the ground.

The non-profit organisation’s members include banks, insurance firms, and mining companies seeking to improve working relationships and manage resources between the government and the private sector.

“We are working with the City of Johannesburg Law enforcement, Disaster Management and other departments to assist where possible with the response and relief activities,” FIRM stated.

Below are some of the photos of the site of the explosion that FIRM captured from a drone in the past few days.

48 people were injured, and one person died in the explosion after one of the many minibus taxis that were propelled metres into the air by the blast’s force landed on him.

The deceased is 34-year-old Malawian Joseph Dumisane, who was selling shoes as a street trader.

Another street trader — identified by News24 as Enock Michael — narrowly avoided death or serious injury when he quickly moved from where he was standing next to the street as the street erupted.

That same spot was occupied by one of the catapulted taxis a second after the blast occurred.

Michael’s miraculous escape was captured on CCTV security camera footage from the area.

The cause of the explosion remains to be confirmed, although Joburg city manager Floyd Brink recently said there were three likely causes currently under investigation.

The first is the ignition of methane gas from sewerage ingress in the underground stormwater systems beneath the street.

Methane is a natural gas that occurs in sewage. It is highly flammable and can be inadvertently set off with a small flame or spark.

In 2021, at least 12 people were killed and 11 injured when such an explosion occurred in Karachi, Pakistan.

The second possibility is the ignition of natural gas mixed with oxygen in underground stormwater drainage systems or service ducts.

The last cause under investigation is the potential ignition of gas from a gas pipe burst.

The latter appears less likely as the supplier of gas in the area — Egoli Gas — said it saw no drop in pressure following the explosion, suggesting its pipes were intact.

In addition, the explosion appeared to occur in the middle of the road, whereas Egoli’s pipes run in road servitudes on the sides of the road.

Now read: Sasol nailed for overpriced natural gas

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Drone photos show Joburg blast tear from the air