Following a tumultuous week of rampant looting across much of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, further tragedy has befallen the coastal province as thousands of fish and marine creatures have been discovered washed up on the banks of river lagoons and on beaches north of Durban. The cause of the die-off is linked to a spill from a chemicals warehouse in the area that was set alight during violent mass action earlier in the week.

The eThekwini Municipality has closed several beaches stating that "the pollution is considered serious and can affect one’s health if species are collected and consumed. Lagoon and seawater contact must also be avoided." The public is being advised to cease all activity on beaches north of the uMgeni estuary.

The Daily Maverick reports that the river estuary at the uMhlanga Lagoon was littered with "dead fish, prawns and other organisms" yesterday afternoon; the estuary had turned a turquoise colour and a strong chemical smell filled the air. Further north, footage emerged of dead crayfish washing up on the beach:

"Collecting or harvesting of any marine living resource in the area is temporarily prohibited until the cause is determined and the threat has abated," the municipality outlined in a statement. The exact source of the pollution is being investigated as cleanup companies are working to contain the spill. It is hoped that ocean currents will wash the contaminants out to sea where they will be diluted sufficiently to no longer cause damage. The full extent of the spill remains to be seen. 

We will update this story as new information becomes available.

Header image: Janelle Barnard/Facebook