It's a miracle nobody injured in silo collapse - CEO

Tammy Petersen, News24

Cape Town - It was a miracle that no-one was injured when 14 silos collapsed at the Sentraal-Suid Koöperasie agricultural co-operative in Swellendam on Tuesday morning, its CEO Ernst Pelser said hours after the disaster.

The metal structures were filled to capacity - with a combined total of 11 500 tons of canola seeds - stored for delivery to the adjacent Southern Oils, who manufacture the B-well Canola oil.

There are eight silos still standing.

The cause of the collapse is unclear, but a team will meet at the site on Wednesday morning to assess the damage and start the investigation into the incident.

CEO Ernst Pelser told News24 he was just walking back into his office at 08:30 when an employee ran in to tell him the silos were collapsing.

“Nobody actually saw it, but people could hear the rumbling,” he said. “It is only a miracle that no one was injured. I can't tell you where exactly all the workers were at the time, but as I'm sitting here, I can tell you how relieved I am.

“It could have been so much worse. Nobody would have survived being trapped underneath."

Tons of seeds covered the surroundings where the silos once stood.

"It is just a mountain of canola seeds - I reckon it could be up to 30m high."

Pelser described the incident as a “disaster”.

“Harvesting season has just passed and this year’s harvest was particularly good,” he said.

The co-operative was urgently trying to find alternative storage capacity for the seeds. "That is my only headache now - if we want to salvage the seed, we need to urgently find alternative storage space."

The structures were about 20 years old and collapsed “like dominoes”, Pelser explained.

"We are one of the bigger employers in town, but our workers are very positive. They realise this is a disaster that we could not foresee, and they are assisting us."