Today in History: Gas explosion killed more than 200 people at campsite

The remains of a tent at the Los Alfaques campsite. Image: Getty Images UK.

The explosion was estimated to have reached a temperature of over 1 000°C and left a 19,8m x 1,5m crater, destroying everything within a 300m radius, and gutting over 90 per cent of the camping area in the process.

At 12.05pm, a truck left a refinery carrying 23 tons of propylene, nearly 4 tons over the maximum design load of 19,35 tons. The tanker driver was under instruction to take the smaller N-340 national road instead of the larger A-7 motorway when carrying cargo to Barcelona, in order to avoid the motorway toll. The N-340 was much narrower and more winding than the A-7, and carried vehicles directly through several densely populated areas.

The disaster occurred at 2.36pm, while the truck was moving past the Los Alfaques campsite after having travelled a mere 102km. The driver’s watch, which was found still attached to his burned wrist, stopped at the time of the explosion.

There are several different eyewitness reports about the events directly preceding the blast.

Some reported the tank was already leaking as it approached the site, or sprung a leak with a loud bang while passing the site. Others reported the bang being caused by a blown tyre which caused the truck to swerve out of control and strike the wall separating the campsite from the roadside, and possibly overturn in the process.

In any case, the leaking tanker released a cloud of gaseous propylene that partially entered the campsite and also drifted on the wind towards a discothèque (nightclub) to the northeast. The white cloud attracted the attention of campsite patrons, who approached the cloud with curiosity as it continued to spread. As the cloud began to permeate the crowded discothèque, it reached an ignition source and immediately flashed back into the tanker, causing a fire that nearly instantaneously ruptured the weakened tank and ignited the full load of gas.

At that time, the campsite to the south was crowded with nearly 1 000 vacationers, mostly German and other foreign tourists, packed tightly in trailers and tents.

The blast and fireball destroyed everything – cars, trailers and buildings – within a 300m radius, gutting over 90 per cent of the main camping area. The discothèque, which was later determined to be the likely source of the ignition, was razed to the ground and all the staff members inside perished.

Do you perhaps have more information pertaining to this story? Email us at northsider@caxton.co.za  (remember to include your contact details) or phone us on 011 955 1130.

For free daily local news on the West Rand, also visit our sister newspaper websites 

Roodepoort Record

Randfontein Herald

Krugersdorp News 

Get It Joburg West Magazine

  AUTHOR
Blake Linder
Journalist

Latest News

Top
Next Story x
Details gloomy about road and water repairs

Thanks for your referral. We have no doubt your friends will love our newsletter as much as you!

Don't forget to verify your email.

to our FREE newsletter
SUBSCRIBE to our FREE newsletter.




SELECT your titles:

Alex News
City Buzz
Fourways Review
Joburg East Express
Midrand Reporter
North Eastern Tribune
Northcliff Melville Times
Randburg Sun
Roodepoort Northsider
Rosebank Killarney Gazette
Sandton Chronicle


Get regular news updates sent directly to your inbox.

Your source of local breaking news and trending stories from across the country.

Be a part of our growing community

1MILFacebook Fans
98KTwitter Followers
5MILMonthly Readers
12MILArticles Published Every Month
72Local Community Websites

SUBSCRIBE to our FREE newsletter

SELECT your titles:

Alex News
City Buzz
Fourways Review
Joburg East Express
Midrand Reporter
North Eastern Tribune
Northcliff Melville Times
Randburg Sun
Roodepoort Northsider
Rosebank Killarney Gazette
Sandton Chronicle

Get regular news updates sent directly to you inbox.

Your source of local breaking news and trending stories from across the country.

Be a part of our growing community

Subscribe Here
1MILFacebook Fans
98KTwitter Followers
5MILMonthly Readers
12MILArticles Published Every Month
72Local Community Websites
Your details:


Your friends: