emergency services gather on July 19 at the scene of a gas explosion in downtown Johannesburg, South Africa. The search and rescue officials also ordered residents in nearby buildings to evacuate and the area where the explosion happened was cordoned off. A possible underground gas explosion on Wednesday ripped open roads and flipped more than 20 cars in South Africa's biggest city of Johannesburg, injured at least nine people, authorities said.
The nine were sent to the hospital with what authorities said were not life-threatening injuries. But others were being evacuated from the area of the site, fearing that a second explosion or that multi-story buildings in a downtown part of Johannesburg that has become rundown and decrepit in parts over the years could collapse.
The middle of the roads was filled with huge cracks and holes, some so massive that vehicles slid down into them.
Buildings are in danger of collapsing, said Mr Lesufi, the prime minister of Gauteng province where Johannesburg is located. The damage was extensive. An area covering five blocks of the city was damaged, according to state and local officials. He said he had counted 23 vehicles flipped over by the explosion.
Lesufi said gas was thought to be the cause of the explosion, but it was not clear if it was caused by a leak in the city's underground pipes or from another undetermined source.
The explosion happened when many people were gathering along the street to catch a minibus taxi home, one of South Africa's most common commuting methods in the cities. A variety of minibus taxis and other vehicles were lying on their sides or backs, some even on top of each other.
Eyewitnesses said people were already inside some of the minibuses when they were thrown out of the air.
One man, who did not give his name, told a news station eNCA that he was in his car when he heard a big sound. The next thing, I was in the air and my car was overturning, she said. He said he was shaken but unhurt.
Emergency crews are still searching for some of the mangled vehicles and nearby buildings and Lesufi said there could be more injured people. It was surprising but a relief that no deaths have been reported, he said.
Rescuers were worried about the amount of gas that leaked out of the area as a distinct smell of gas hung in the area.
This place is still dangerous, Lesufi said.
In the immediate moments after the explosion on the busy Bree Street in downtown Johannesburg, people were seen running as smoke poured out of a crack in the road.
The toxic nitrate gas leak has killed 17 people, including at least three children, in an informal settlement on the outskirts of Johannesburg. In the settlement, that was blamed for an illegal gold processing operation.