Greenpeace Africa is accusing the Environmental Minister Barbra Creecy of leniency towards carbon majors and is demanding that she pursues criminal charges against Engen as a repeat offender of air pollution violations.
The environmental justice group was reacting to Friday’s explosion at the Engen Oil Refinery in Wentworth, Durban, which left at least seven people injured.
Greenpeace says the incident is a third environmental disaster to occur in KwaZulu-Natal within the past three months.
“This is not the first time, and it won’t be the last unless decisive action is taken. The time for complacency is over.”
It follows Transnet’s crude oil spill into the Umbilo River and a recent motor vehicle accident caused by a fuel tanker, which claimed 12 lives.
The organisation wants government to start phasing-out the fossil industry.
Greenpeace Africa Climate and Energy Campaigner, Nhlanhla Sibisi, says the government needs to take decisive action amid the ‘ongoing environmental crisis.’
“The fossil fuel industry has proven repeatedly that it is a threat to the environment and human health. It is more apparent than ever before that what South Africa needs is a decisive phasing-out of the fossil fuel industry – this is a matter of life or death, an imperative to put people over profits.”
Sibisi says air pollution is costing South Africa billions in healthcare and loss of lives.
Wentworth community members have been raising concerns over the health risk posed by the refinery for years now.
In July, Merebank residents complained of not being able to sleep due to a methyl mercaptan gas leak at the Engen refinery.
“The long term health impacts of this disaster on health will be devastating, including cancer and congenital disabilities and neurological damage,” Sibisi warns.
Other environmental rights groups want the refinery closed and the Engen CEO held to account.
Advanced life support paramedic Garrith Jamieson is among those who were first on the scene.
Below he explains the situation they found upon arrival.