Yesterday, classes and lecture halls surrounding the chemistry labs at the University of the Free State (UFS) were evacuated as smoke and three explosions occurred underground on the northern side of the campus.

According to a statement released by university management later in the day, tests showed that the explosions happened in the storm water drains and was possibly caused by a chemical substance closely resembling paint thinners. As a precautionary measure, students in classes around that area were removed by campus security and firefighters from Mangaung Fire and Rescue.

Third year media studies and journalism student, Teboho Mpholo, was attending an English lecture when a female staff member ran into the room and told everyone that there was a fire. Mpholo says that she and her fellow classmates were rushed out of the classroom and gathered into a group outside where they were ushered out of the way by campus security. Mpholo said, “When I heard the explosions I got scared because I could not even see what was happening. There was no sign of anything just smoke, it was very confusing.”

No one sustained any injuries. University management has reassured students that the situation was well monitored and controlled by the Mangaung Fire and Rescue department. The university also stated that the incident is unlikely to happen again because the drains were flushed and the storm water drains are separate from the sewage and other draining systems.

Written by Tammy Fray