14 June 2024 | 12:49 AM

Watch: The UPL chemical warehouse disaster explained


In July 2021, South Africa was gripped by widespread unrest. Amid the chaos of the insurrection, a pesticide warehouse in Durban was set alight. The fallout caused a major ecological disaster. Rivers turned a luminous blue, fish and crustaceans died by the thousands. While nearby residents, exposed to the fire’s toxic fumes, have started to wonder if they will suffer any permanent damage to their health.

International agrochemical giant UPL, which rents the KwaZulu Natal-based warehouse, refused to provide answers about what chemicals were being stored in their warehouse at the time of the blaze — prompting amaBhungane reporters to roll up their sleeves and start digging. 

AmaB’s investigative journalists, Susan Comrie and Dewald van Rensburg, explain in this video how they set about uncovering what toxic chemicals were on site at the time of the blaze, and what they discovered is quite terrifying. 

Watch the video to find out why.

Plus, read amaB’s series into the UPL chemical warehouse fire:

*Here it is: The toxic stockpile of chemicals in torched Durban warehouse *UPL fire: Here’s the full inventory of chemicals in the destroyed Cornubia warehouse *UPL chemical disaster: A gaping legal loophole or jaw-dropping negligence? *UPL disaster: Initial tests found high levels of arsenic from Durban’s chemical spill *UPL disaster: Residents kept in the dark about dangers on their doorstep

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Before joining the amaBhungane team in 2017, Micah was the national coordinator for media freedom and diversity at the Right2Know Campaign. He holds a Masters in African Studies from Oxford University and a BA Honours in History from Wits University.

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