Two people were killed in an explosion at Astron Energy’s 100,000 barrel per day refinery in Cape Town early on Thursday, emergency officials confirmed.
The Western Cape’s emergency medical services said one male and one female died on site and seven people sustained minor injuries and were taken to hospital.
The fire at South Africa’s third-biggest crude oil refinery started at around 4 a.m. (0200 GMT), said Astron Energy, which is majority owned by commodities trader Glencore.
“The resultant fire has been contained and all work on the.. plant has been suspended,” said a spokeswoman.
She said Astron would release an updated statement later.
The Milnerton plant, which had been in the process of restarting after undergoing extended maintenance, was shut down after this morning’s fire.
“At first I thought it was thunder, but it was just like one big rumble and you could feel the vibrations,” said Felix Holm, who lives some 500 metres away from the refinery.
“It woke me up, the explosion,” he told Reuters.
The refinery, which Glencore acquired as part of an almost $1 billion deal with Chevron, earlier this year completed a 400 million rand ($23.69 million) upgrade to produce very low sulphur fuel for ships docking in Cape Town port.
The shutdown comes at a crucial time for South Africa as it reopens after its COVID-19-related lockdown. Industry body SAPIA said in May that the country was facing a diesel shortage due to a spike in demand as restrictions on movement eased.
Africa’s most industrialised economy is a net importer of crude and petroleum products.
Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Jan Harvey and Chizu Nomiyama