SOUTH AFRICA

Thousands of people fled their homes in panic as a fire at a chemical plant spewed out poisonous gas which spread over the Makassar community area near Cape Town. At least 100 people were hospitalised after inhaling corrosive sulphur dioxide, causing irritation in the eyes, nose and lungs. On the morning of December 15, 1995 a huge, reddish cloud hung over the area. The poisonous gas was released when a bush fire ignited a stockpile of sulphur spread over a large area. More than 2,500 residents were, evacuated to safer places. Strong winds had reduced the threat by dispersing the gas. The mishap put a dampener on the year- end vacationing season when South Africans travel to the coastal area as the southern hemisphere summer sets in. The sulphur, used in the making of explosives, had been piled up in the factory since the apartheid era.

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