Search on for cause of deadly Denel blast

Emergency agencies and government authorities are working with Rheinmetall Denel Munition to identify the cause of a deadly blast that claimed the lives of eight people, the company said on Wednesday.

The blast on Monday occurred at Rheinmetall Denel's depot in Somerset West, near Cape Town.

The company's statement comes after a joint operations command – consisting of emergency agencies and government authorities – was deactivated on Tuesday night after being launched immediately after the explosion on Monday to "coordinate immediate disaster response and mitigation effectively".

It has now moved into recovery phase, where all parties are working together to establish the cause of the fatal blast.

According to the company, the product involved in the explosion was an ignition propellent consisting of more than 95% nitrocellulose, more commonly referred to as gun cotton, used as an ignition material for ammunition charge systems.

Rheinmetall Denel maintained that the smoke cloud seen after the explosion did not pose a health risk to its staff or people in neighbouring areas.

It would meet with affected family members on Thursday at its premises to provide them with a detailed update on the incident, the company said.

"There is nothing more important right now than providing utmost support and care for the families involved in this heartbreaking incident," CEO Norbert Schulze said in a statement.