During rush hour on Wednesday, an unexplained explosion ripped through central Johannesburg tearing through a main road and injuring 41 people, South African officials said.
Initially, emergency services blamed underground gas pipes, but the Egoli Gas company said it was “unlikely” the explosion — which cracked tarmac and overturned vehicles including minibus taxis — “was caused by a gas pipeline or leak”.
“Our network has experienced no pressure loss which indicates the gas pipelines are intact. Our customers in the area continue to receive gas uninterrupted,” the company said in a statement.
“It’s a miracle there are no fatalities,” Panyaza Lesufi, the provincial Premier of Gauteng, which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria had earlier said.
However, one person was later found dead. The body of the deceased was found during a nighttime search of the blast area, Johannesburg’s Emergency Management Services spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi said on Twitter.
Forty-one people were injured, among them two in a critical condition, nine seriously injured and 30 with minor injuries, according to Lesufi. He said a preliminary investigation did not reveal the cause of the blast.
Authorities estimated that an area covering five city blocks was damaged and at least six roads were affected. At least 34 vehicles were damaged, with some flipped on their sides or lying on top of other vehicles.
Others had tumbled into gaping crevices that appeared in the middle of roads as the damage resembled a scene from an apocalyptic movie.