The fire at the petrol depot

One Sunday soon after we arrived we were awoken from a mid-afternoon nap by the shouts of children outside, and immediately realized from the low rumble, almost pressure waves rather than audible sound, that permeated the air, that something was badly wrong. Leaping up, we could see from the window a huge column of black smoke rising from the Light Industrial Area. We jumped into the car and drove out to the Chingola Road, from where we could soon see that one of the large tanks at the Petrol Depot, the only one in town, was ablaze. We drove down the London Road and joined a small knot of spectators watching workmen rolling 44-gallon drums of petrol away from the blazing tank, through thick smoke and enormous heat. The men were showing incredible courage, and managed to get most of the 44-gallon drums away from the fire.

However, we heard later and read in the morning papers that, on the other side of the fire, the side that adjoined an African township, UNIP Youth agitators had incited a small riot against whites. This had spilled over onto the main road, where rocks were thrown at the cars coming into town from Chingola. A lady was killed by a rock that came through her windscreen.

This incident caused a drop in the petrol ration from 10 imperial gallons per month to 8 gallons, which was a real hardship for anybody who did not live close to work.