Zambian Breweries was forced to close operations and evacuate staff at its factory in Lusaka’s main industrial area yesterday (November 9) after record numbers of highly explosive fuel tankers parked on the roads surrounding it premises.
The problem is a disaster waiting to happen, warned Zambian Breweries Managing Director Annabelle Degroot, who closed the company’s operations for the day and sent staff home, with accompanying disruption to production and distribution of beer and soft drinks. The company said it would review the safety situation on a day-by-day basis on deciding when it was safe to resume operations.
More than 100 petrol tankers lined Mungwi Road, and surrounding side roads yesterday, double-parking on one side of the road and single parking on the other side, just metres from the company’s boundary.
Government has initiated measures to resolve the situation, but these may take several days to implement, and in the meantime the company has deployed security personnel to patrol the tankers and stamp out any cooking fires, said Mrs Degroot.
The company has repeatedly complained about the practice of fuel tankers parking on the road and called for a designated truck park to be established, but the problem has been escalating in recent months.
In September a fuel tanker carrying petrol caught fire while parked near plant, a particular hazard given some drivers’ practice of cooking over open fires while they camp in their vehicles.
Earlier in the year quick action by a combined team of Zambian Breweries safety personnel and the Lusaka Fire Brigade recently averted what could have been a national catastrophe and a high-profile accident that would have tarnished Zambia’s reputation on industrial safety standards in yet another incident involving the tankers.
“This is extremely dangerous. Many lives could be lost if a fire breaks out. We are concerned with this situation and we have to be forced to close for a day as it is not safe to operate in such a situation,” said Mrs Degroot, who has called on the authorities to take necessary action to avert any loss of life from the hazardous parking of the fuel tankers.
“We are yet again appealing to the relevant authorities to urgently address this matter. We are committed to work with the authorities in whatever capacity to help in this matter.” she added.
For the last few years Zambian Breweries management has been engaging the Ministry of Transport, Works, Supply and Communications; the Ministry of Energy; the Police Service; and the local authorities to highlight the danger of these tanks.