Residents of Merebank in Durban on Friday said they would put more pressure on Engen to work with the community in developing a clear safety plan for the area.
This follows a massive explosion which resulted in at least 10 people being treated for minor to moderate injuries linked to smoke inhalation. The explosion sent a massive tower of smoke into the air – traumatizing residents.
Those directly affected included Engen workers as well as an elderly woman and two minor children.
The explosion once again highlighted tensions between the Merebank community and Engen.
Local activist Melanie Israel said, “What they’re doing is now they’re asking us to remove ourselves from here, emphasising the fact that this is a national key point site. Our fight with Engen will go on and we hope that at some stage we will be heard.”
For its part, Engen says it’s committed to improving its relations with the community.
Spokesperson Thandeka Cele said, “We have an Engen community stakeholder forum; we have notified them of the incident via WhatsApp where we do communicate but we are open to the community for further discussions.”
The refinery has been temporarily closed to allow investigators to do their work and to ensure that the site is safe.
At the same time, residents claimed the incident may have been avoided if Engen had taken note of their concerns and ensured safe business practices.
Frank Alexander, one of the community members who have taken Engen to court over health and safety concerns in the area, said, “This isn’t the first time an incident of fire (SIC) has taken place at the Engen refinery and we keep on highlighting it but it always falls on deaf ears.”
He added, “We have written to the shareholders of this refinery in Malaysia asking them to intervene because as a community, we cannot continue like this where profit is put ahead of human life.”
Israel said it was disappointing that all those affected in the explosion had to be treated at a distant hospital, despite their calls for Engen to establish a 24-hour clinic in the area.