By Tsitsi Matope
MASERU — A massive explosion has brought production at Loti Brick to a stand-still.
The explosion at the preheating side of the Loti Brick kiln (furnace) occurred after production workers tried to fire the furnace last Thursday morning.
The leading clay brick production plant has since been temporarily shut down to allow an assessment and repair of damages.
Loti Brick Managing Director, Kelebone Leisanyane, said the explosion occurred while workers tried to put some oil to kick-start heating operations at around 3am on Thursday.
Although, luckily none of the workers were injured in the explosion, the strong walls of the preheating furnace cracked.
Further assessments by the South African based agent of Haessler, (a Germany company), who build the kiln, will soon determine the extent of the damage caused by the explosion.
“It is by a very strange act of God that none of the workers were hurt in that explosion,” Leisanyane said.
He explained the furnace that heats clay bricks and normally runs 24 hours at a high temperature of 1 100 degrees throughout the year, was initially shutdown on Sunday following oil supply delays.
The oil, he further explained, was delivered on Wednesday before they started preparing for the firing process during early hours of Thursday.
There were thousands of bricks mixed with coal to be hard-baked in the furnace when the firing started.
“From our preliminary investigations, which would be followed by other enquiries, we suspect there could have been some coal gases that accumulated in the preheating furnace. These might have caused the explosion when the firing started,” he said.
Leisanyane said the workers, who could be seen removing the debris to make way for the damage assessment last Friday, had followed proper firing procedures.
“We are not suspecting sabotage. I think this was an occupational accident,” Leisanyane said.
Loti Brick’s stocks are currently sitting at five million units.
Leisanyane said with a high demand of up to one million bricks per month, the stocks can last five months.
“We hope the repairs will not take long and plant production would resume as soon as possible.”
He said the 90 workers on the production side, will not be affected by the shutdown and some were expected to also assist in the repair works.
“We are also considering clamp production of bricks, which is production outside the plant. That way, we can keep producing bricks, though at a low scale,” he said.
Loti Brick (Pty) Ltd was established in 1978 and started operations in 1980.
The Company is wholly owned by Basotho nationals.
Its operations cover manufacturing, sales and distribution of clay brick products in Lesotho and some parts of South Africa. Loti Brick manufactures high quality face bricks and other types of bricks such as paster and paver.