The Ekurhuleni EMS stated that 24 individuals died of suspected gas inhalation on Wednesday night at the Angelo informal settlement in Boksburg, Ekurhuleni.
The gas, nitrate oxide, was said to have leaked from a gas cylinder used by zama-zamas, who work out of a shack in the informal settlement.
Ekurhuleni EMS spokesperson William Ntladi said officials were still searching for more victims at the scene.
“The search and recovery team is searching the shacks in and around the area where the cylinder was to verify if there are other casualties,” he said.
No patients were being treated by paramedics because all of those impacted by the gas had died.
Ntladi said it was unknown when the gas started leaking, but that by the time they arrived at the scene at around 8 p.m., the deaths had already occurred.
Another Ekurhuleni EMS officer who previously spoke to SurgeZirc SA described the horrible scene where the dead were discovered.
Among the dead were women and children. He stated that their bodies were discovered dispersed throughout the settlement near the source of the leak.
“The zama-zama guys live amongst the community and clean and refine their gold here using gas cylinders. Sadly this time the gas cylinders leaked resulting in the people who were sleeping suffocating. [Others] who were awake died as they tried to run but the fumes were too much to bare,” the medic said.
“For now, the youngest victims are two and five years old,” said the EMS official.
SurgeZirc SA has obtained graphic images from the scene.
Meanwhile, another local metro police department officer stated: “Initially, when we received a call it was more to say there was an explosion, only with further investigations, it was ascertained to say it wasn’t an explosion there was a gas leakage”