Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

State-owned arms manufacturer Denel was rocked by an explosion that killed eight people at its Somerset West plant outside Cape Town on Monday.

The cause of the explosion has not been ascertained, said Theo Layne, a spokesperson for the fire and rescue service.

The factory produces explosives and propellants for civilian and military use in ammunition.

Rheinmetall Denel Munition said in a statement that an explosion occurred at one of its buildings but it could not confirm whether there were any injuries or fatalities. “We are investigating the matter,” it said.

According to Bloomberg, the blast was confirmed by two company officials with knowledge of the event who spoke on condition of anonymity. Kfm, a Cape Town-based radio station, reported a huge “fireball” over the plant.

Rheinmetall Denel Munition, which specialises in the development, design and manufacture of large-and medium- calibre ammunition, is 51%-owned by Rheinmetall Waffe Munition of Germany and 49% by Denel, SA’s state-owned weapons company.

Residents of Somerset West and Strand reported feeling the effects of the blast. Some said their doors and homes were rattled, whereas others stated their windows were “almost knocked out”.

Rheinmetall Denel Munition recently increased its output by 20% and has several plants running 24 hours a day, while it continues to invest in capacity expansion and training.

Rheinmetall Denel Munition’s Wellington and Boksburg plants are said to be running 24 hours a day to meet demand and R90m has been invested in capacity expansion. The company has four facilities in SA. The factory at Somerset West produces propellants, Wellington produces chemicals, Boksburg makes forgings and Boskop does filling.

With Bloomberg