JOHANNESBURG — At least 16 people were killed in a gas leak at an informal housing encampment on the outskirts of Johannesburg, the police said on Wednesday.
An emergency official said the deaths resulted from a leak in a cylinder of gas at the encampment, called the Angelo informal settlement, near the South African city of Boksburg. The South African Police Service said two other people were taken to the hospital for treatment, according to The Associated Press.
Local news reports identified the gas as a nitrate oxide.
There was some discrepancy about the death toll, with emergency services officials saying that as many as 24 people had died. The reason for the different death tolls was not immediately clear.
A spokesman for the emergency services, William Ntladi, told local news outlets that officials had received a call about an explosion at about 8 p.m. local time, but found instead that there had been a leak.
The cylinder of gas was found in a shack at the settlement, he said, adding that women and children were among the dead. The type of gas that was in the cylinder is often linked to illegal mining.
The gas leak was later stopped and rescue teams were searching a 100-yard radius around the cylinder to check for more victims, according to The A.P., citing Mr. Ntladi.
He said the victims had yet to be identified.
In December, Boksburg, a community about 30 minutes east of Johannesburg, was the site of a gas tanker explosion that killed at least 10 people, injured at least 60 others and left a scene that one person compared to a “war zone,” with twisted vehicles, clothes melted into peoples’ bodies and bystanders missing limbs.
The tanker became stuck beneath a low overpass and exploded with a blast that could be felt nearly half a mile away, officials said.