A rescue mission is currently underway at the SAPREF refinery.
Photo: Facebook/Singh Elvina

KZN floods: SAPREF workers airlifted in submerged refinery

SAPREF employees had to be airlifted after they sought refuge on the control room roofs due to floods in KZN.


A rescue mission is currently underway at the SAPREF refinery.
Photo: Facebook/Singh Elvina

Workers from South Africa’s biggest refinery, SAPREF have been airlifted after they sought refuge on the roofs due to floods in KZN. 

Over 50 workers were reportedly stuck from the roof tops since 02:00 on Tuesday after the control rooms and the refinery were flooded. 


Images shared on social media showed vehicles submerged and tanks almost drowning from the floods.

An employee confirmed that they had been stuck since around 02:30 and were only airlifted after 11:30. 

The worker also said they only came out with the overalls they wore. Their cars were submerged and could not leave with anything else. 

Some could not even go home because many roads have been closed due to mudslides, floods and some bridges have collapsed and others have been washed away. 

A rescue mission was reportedly still underway just after midday on Tuesday.

“Due to inclement weather and flooding that has caused some of our unit to trip, we are experiencing flaring. We apologise for the inconvenience caused.”

One of the control rooms at SAPREF refinery. Photo: Facebook/Singh Elvina

SAPREF is currently on a staggered shut down of its units as its owners Shell and BP announced that the refinery would be pausing operations indefinitely.

As previously reported, SAPREF said the decision was taken to allow an informed finalisation on the various options available to the shareholders, a sale option being the most preferred. 

Until decisions about the future of the plant have been made – including a possible change of ownership – the SAPREF shareholders said they are unable to commit to further investment in the refinery. 


KZN has been drenched by record-breaking rainfall, with some areas receiving 300mm of the wet stuff within 24 hours.

Coastal regions and the surrounding suburbs of eThekwini have been affected the most. The South African Weather Service (SAWS) issued an orange level 8 rain warning for the province.

The weather service said significant amounts of rainfall have already been received in most places along the south coast and more rain is expected on Tuesday.

“The soil is already saturated and some drainage systems are already full. Widespread flooding can be expected to continue on Tuesday over the south-eastern parts of KZN.”

SA Weather Service

ALSO READ: SAPREF: Southern Africa’s biggest refinery pauses production indefinitely