Thick smoke pours over houses in Alberton, Ekurhuleni after a fuel pipeline caught fire. Picture: TWITTER/ @Bluehawktactic1
Thick smoke pours over houses in Alberton, Ekurhuleni after a fuel pipeline caught fire. Picture: TWITTER/ @Bluehawktactic1

Transnet blamed an incident of attempted theft for a fuel pipeline fire in Alberton, Ekurhuleni, on Tuesday. The fire saw about 40 homes temporarily evacuated as a safety precaution.

Transnet spokesperson Saret Knoetze said pipelines and associated infrastructure have experienced an unprecedented spate of theft over the past few months.

“The latest incident occurred on December 31 in Alberton, where an attempted theft incident at a block valve occurred on our Durban to Johannesburg petroleum pipeline, on a section between Alrode and the airport, which resulted in spillage and fire,” said Knoetze in a statement.

Emergency response teams were activated and the blaze was brought under control. Knoetze said Transnet’s focus was now on containing the spillage to minimise risk to the nearby community and environment.

“Residents are requested to avoid the site, to not use their cellphones or to smoke near the spillage, and to follow the guidance of the emergency services,” Knoetze said.

“This pipeline is part of a section of the Durban to Johannesburg pipeline, which is currently being decommissioned as it [is being] replaced with the new multi-product pipeline. There are no security-of-supply concerns to the Gauteng market area.”

She said various steps have been put in place to address attempted theft along pipelines. Some have yielded positive results, including several arrests and the impounding of numerous fuel tankers.

“Unfortunately, the criminal activities are ongoing, thereby increasing the risk to communities living near our pipelines and potentially affecting the security of supply to the inland market area.”

Eric Maloka, acting disaster and emergency management services spokesperson, confirmed that the blaze had been largely brought under control by 11am. 

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