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One Dead, 48 Injured In Unexplained Johannesburg Blast

The explosion blew a hole in the road  and gouged out cracks, skittling pedestrians and cars.


A general view of a damaged road in Johannesburg on July 20, 2023, following an unexplained explosion which occurred during rush hour on July 19, 2023. (Photo by Luca Sola / AFP)

 

A body was found in central Johannesburg early Thursday after an unexplained blast ripped through a busy street at rush hour the previous evening, the emergency services said.

The explosion blew a hole in the road  and gouged out cracks, skittling pedestrians and cars.

“(In the) early hours of this morning, we managed to recover a body of a male person on site where the explosion occurred,” Emergency Management Services spokesman Robert Mulaudzi said.

A tow truck prepares to tow away a damaged vehicle next to a damaged road in Johannesburg on July 20, 2023, following an unexplained explosion which occurred during rush hour on July 19, 2023. (Photo by Luca Sola / AFP)

Panyaza Lesufi, the premier of Johannesburg’s Gauteng province, told a media briefing that 48 people were injured.

Witnesses reported chemical odours and escaping vapours after the powerful blast, which overturned vehicles, including minibus taxis.

Lesufi said a preliminary inspection did not reveal the cause of the explosion.

Experts are “still searching for the source,” he said.

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The blast occurred on a broad four-lane avenue used as a commuting artery by minibuses, bordered by high-rise buildings housing apartments and street-level stores.

A general view of a damaged road in Johannesburg on July 20, 2023, following an unexplained explosion which occurred during rush hour on July 19, 2023. (Photo by Luca Sola / AFP)

Terrified people ran for safety after the blast, CCTV footage showed.

The area remained closed on Thursday as police chased away onlookers.

“It’s about keeping this scene sterile,” said Elias Mawela, the provincial police commissioner. “Should we have a secondary explosion, then we may lose lives”.

Emergency services initially blamed underground gas pipes for the blast but the city’s privatised gas company, Egoli Gas, said it was “unlikely” this was the case as customers were still receiving their supplies uninterrupted.

A general view of a damaged road in Johannesburg on July 20, 2023, following an unexplained explosion which occurred during rush hour on July 19, 2023. (Photo by Luca Sola / AFP)

However, it issued a further statement after an initial inspection, saying that “one or two manhole covers” had been blown off and a “white gas-like substance” was seen coming out of these openings.

The city’s mayor told reporters that homeless people around the area, who often sleep rough on the pavements overnight, had been moved to temporary shelters.

AFP