Small fires still smoldered under the collapsed roof of a label printing company in Durban, filling the air with a pungent smell of chemical combustion, days after devastating riots rocked South Africa.
Two visibly dejected young workers, in T-shirts, stared at the smoldering piles of ash that were once wheels of sticky paper loaded into now-obliterated printers.
“I don’t think anything can be salvaged,” said one of them, a factory supervisor, cautiously walking around the remains of charred machinery.
His colleague, a forklift driver, shrugged and hovered mournfully near the entrance, struggling to come to terms with the destruction.
“Let’s go,” he said. “I don’t want to keep looking at this place.”
They asked not to be named as they were not authorized to speak on behalf of their employer.
One of the builders of the building – who was only five years old – stopped by and took photos of the damage with his smartphone.
“All of this will have to be demolished,” she sighed.
“If this is the destruction we can do to the country in a week, why would we invest?
Ushukela Industrial Park in the southeastern port city – its name means “sweet” in Zulu – was one of many that were bombed in a wave of arson and looting that hit some people. parts of South Africa last week.
– Broken TV screens –
Across the road, hundreds of shattered TV screens littered the entrance to a blackened factory of LG Electronics, which had moved less than a year ago from Johannesburg, the financial capital of the South Africa.
Disassembled washing machines and air conditioners lay in the sun, next to an occasional shoe presumably lost by fleeing looters.
A security guard watched over the debris, still targeted for scrap metal and parts.
Manufacturing is the backbone of Durban’s economy, driven by proximity to one of the largest and busiest sea terminals in sub-Saharan Africa.
Large factories and warehouses line the outskirts of the lush oceanfront city, which is also a popular tourist destination.
These buildings were heavily targeted by mobs, who looted the stockpile and started fires in violence sparked by the imprisonment of former South African President Jacob Zuma, accused of corruption.
The unrest quickly spread to Johannesburg before 215 people died in scuffles, crushed by falling objects or caught in fires.
The orgy of looting has now subsided, but material and material damage in KwaZulu-Natal province alone is estimated at around $ 1.4 billion (€ 1.19 billion).
Companies are struggling to pick up the pieces.
– ‘Start to smell’ –
Atop a hill overlooking the industrial suburb of Pinetown, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the coast, workers at a dairy warehouse collected broken milk bottles and jars of margarine.
The ground was covered with a prickly, slippery brown sleet.
Residents of a nearby informal settlement lingered outside, rummaging through broken bottles and cans that still litter the road.
The blackened skeleton of a factory run by Australian-American packaging company Amcor – one of three factories in South Africa – loomed behind them, still smoking.
The police were on standby in case any bodies were found during the clean-ups.
A member of the search team grimaced and pointed to a nearby frozen meat packing company that had not yet been allowed access after it was set on fire.
“I don’t want to be the one who goes in there,” said another policeman. “It’s already started to smell.”
sch / sn / ri