Zambian Breweries was forced to close operations and evacuate staff at its factory in Lusaka’s main industrial area yesterday after record numbers of highly explosive fuel tankers parked on the roads surrounding it premises.
More than 100 petrol tankers lined Mungwi Road and surrounding side roads double-parking on one side of the road and single parking on the other side, just metres from the company’s boundary.
The company said it would review the safety situation on a day-by-day basis on deciding when it was safe to resume operations.
Zambian Breweries Managing Director Annabelle Degroot, closed the company’s operations for the day and sent staff home, with accompanying disruption to production and distribution of beer and soft drinks.
For the last few years 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.
The Government has initiated measures to resolve the situation, but these have taken long to implement.
In the meantime the company has deployed security personnel to patrol the tankers and stamp out any cooking fires.
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 this year, 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 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 and Many lives could be lost if a fire breaks out.
Mrs. Degroot has on several occasions 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.
Normal operations have resumed today after prompt action by authorities to resolve problems with fuel tankers parking close to the company’s premises.
The Ministry of Energy and Water development said that 115 identified trucks will be diverted to Ndola fuel terminal in order to ease congestion in Lusaka.