3 people hospitalised after SABC diesel spillage, old equipment blamed

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Picture: Tracy Lee Stark

Three people were transported to hospital after suffering effects of chemical inhalation following a diesel spillage at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Johannesburg, Radio Park building on Wednesday morning, emergency services said.

Netcare 911 said three patients suffered the effects of chemical inhalation and were treated on the scene before being transported by ambulance to hospital for further assessment.

Ageing infrastructure has been blamed for a diesel spillage that resulted in the broadcaster’s Auckland Park headquarters having to be evacuated on Wednesday morning.

Listeners of SABC radio shows, eyewitnesses situated near the SABC, and social media users with inside info took to Twitter to share updates about the situation while trying to gather additional information about what was really happening.

In a follow-up statement after the event, the SABC explained that an on-site generator had malfunctioned during the process of switching the building’s power supply from the City Power grid to the generator.

“There was a power outage earlier this morning which resulted in the SABC’s internal systems switching from City Power to the backup generator. Due to the ageing and failure of the equipment, this led to the diesel tank overflowing,” said the SABC.

Although no fires were reported, staff were evacuated from the building as a precautionary measure.

“The health and safety of SABC employees is of paramount importance and, as a precautionary measure, all our employees from the radio park building have been safely evacuated,” added the SABC.

Speaking to News24, Netcare 911 spokesperson Shawn Herbst confirmed that 2,000 litres of diesel had leaked from a generator on the 15th floor according to information he had received from the scene and added that no fires had been reported at that point.

“Many people have been evacuated, but others are still trapped on the 17th floor. Our paramedics can’t get to them and they can’t come down because of the fumes. We are waiting for the fire department to assist,” he told the publication.

Affected stations have since switched to automation and listeners will have non-stop music to listen to until they are able to get back to their studios or make contingency plans.

Kaunda Selisho, ANA / The Citizen