Township Tragedy: 17 killed as mysterious toxic gas leak spreads fatal fumes


The death toll from a toxic gas leak in a South African township has risen to 17, with investigators pointing to possible illegal mining activities as the likely cause.

The fatal accident occurred in an area near Boksburg, east of Johannesburg, on Wednesday when a cylinder storing an unidentified poisonous gas sprang a leak.

As grief-stricken residents recounted the horror of seeing loved ones die while trying to flee the toxic fumes, authorities indicated preliminary findings suggested links to illegal mining operations.

“Initial investigations indicate the gas could be linked to illegal mining,” said William Ntladi of the local emergency services. While it remains unclear if any of the deceased were illegally panning for gold, Ntladi noted “the suspected illegal miners are among the deceased.”

The scene was described as “heartbreaking,” with bodies – including that of a one-year-old child – scattered nearby. The death toll has now climbed to 17 with four others critically ill in hospital.

Panyaza Lesufi, the provincial premier who visited the disaster site, expressed frustration that illegal mining activities were known to authorities but were “completely out of control.”

He said investigators would try to secure the area and determine how the gas storage cylinder ruptured while also pinpointing the toxic chemical. Early findings indicated the gas was used by illegal miners to allegedly extract gold from the soil.

The tragedy has put a spotlight on South Africa’s scourge of illegal mining, which costs the state billions in lost revenue annually. In recent months, two other explosions – one at an abandoned mine and another involving a gas tanker – killed over 60 people in the same township.

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