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A gas line exploded underground in Johannesburg, launching vehicles through the air

The taxi driver hurriedly jumped out of the car, screaming for help. I took a deep breath to calm myself and opened the car door. As I exited the vehicle, I noticed the ground underneath my feet split in half.

  • 11 months ago
  • August 10, 2023
4 min read
Teddy witnessed the explosion from the backseat of a taxi, as they drove down the street seconds before the incident happened. As the explosion erupted, the entire street split in half, causing the cars to topple over or get lifted off the ground. Teddy witnessed the explosion from the backseat of a taxi, as they drove down the street seconds before the incident happened. As the explosion erupted, the entire street split in half, causing the cars to topple over or get lifted off the ground. | Photo courtesy of Teddy Msomi
INTERVIEW SUBJECT
Teddy Msomi is a self-taught professional photographer from South Africa. He owns a modeling agency & photography company called One Eleven Photography. He also has a YouTube channel where he talks about his process. He was in a taxi when an underground gas line exploded in Johannesburg and feared he might lose his life.
BACKGROUND INORMATION
A suspected underground gas explosion ripped open roads and flipped vehicles in the heart of South Africa’s biggest city, killing one man and injuring at least 41 people on Wednesday, July 19, 2023. The cause of the blast is still under speculation, as some believed it was due to illegal mining activities. The company that supplies gas to that part of the city does not believe its underground pipes to be responsible for the incident.

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — On Wednesday, July 19, 2023, as I headed out of a photoshoot to make my way home, a loud explosion echoed through the streets. A terrible crashing noise followed it. The taxi I sat in lifted off the ground for a split second and came crashing back down.

My body tensed up instantly as the sudden movement of the taxi buried me in the backseat. My head began to ring, and I anticipated something terrible. I looked out the window, trying to make sense of what just happened. People all around us rushed for cover, fearing an attack of some sort. Still in shock, I felt unable to move. Right then and there, I wondered if I would make it out alive. 

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As the explosion erupted, cars were blown off to the side

The taxi driver hurriedly jumped out of the car, screaming for help. I took a deep breath to calm myself and opened the car door. As I exited the vehicle, I noticed the ground underneath my feet split in half. Further ahead, I spotted a car that tumbled over. People around it took out their phones and started filming.

I felt my heart beating fast and worried I might pass out from the anxiety. Very quickly, I distanced myself from the toppled car in front of us in case it exploded. I later discovered the driver was found buried underneath the wreckage. 

Once help arrived, my stress level decreased. I stuck around for a while, observing the situation and making sure nobody else had gotten hurt. The authorities told us some kind of malfunction caused an underground gas explosion. However, some people believe there is more to the story.

People speculate that illegal mining and the government’s neglect of public safety caused the incident. The roads became full of cracks and holes, causing cars to slide down them. With one man reported dead and 41 injured, the people of South Africa deserve an explanation. 

People feel scared for the future of the country

This country unfortunately has a history of neglect. A lot of the roads and infrastructure in South Africa remain a public safety issue. While many attempted to raise awareness and suggest solutions, the government continues to ignore the people’s requests. It feels as though the safety of the country’s inhabitants barely crosses their minds. Sadly, the corruption and neglect run even deeper. Many hospitals remain in dire condition due to a lack of funding. 

A photo taken by Teddy, showing the state of the roads after the explosion. | Photo courtesy of Teddy Msomi

Today, the aftermath of the explosion on Bree Street looks like an earthquake ravaged the neighborhood. They closed off the entire area as the horrid smell of gas lingers. Buildings around the scene appear to be in danger of collapsing.

I realize how lucky I am to be alive and unharmed, but the trauma stays with you. At that moment, we all believed we were under attack. We continue to carry that with us, weighing on our chests as we hear officials make excuses for it on television. What makes me most anxious is the lack of accountability we’ve seen. I wonder, “Will it happen again? And will it be much worse next time?” The government needs to do what is necessary to keep us safe. 

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