Police officers inspect damaged cars and the road after a suspected gas explosion injured several people and caused significant damage, in the central business district of Johannesburg, on July 19, 2023. Image Credit: REUTERS

Johannesburg: An unexplained explosion ripped through central Johannesburg during rush hour Wednesday, tearing through a main road and injuring 41 people, South African officials said.

The blast on Wednesday afternoon overturned minibus taxis and several other vehicles, while one of the streets in the city "seemed to have been split wide open," ER24, an emergency medical service, said in a statement. "Initial reports from the scene showed that several people had sustained minor to moderate injuries," it said.

The authorities are still investigating the cause of the blast.

Emergency services initially blamed underground gas pipes, but the Egoli Gas company said it was "unlikely" the explosion - which cracked tarmac and overturned vehicles including minibus taxis - "was caused by a gas pipeline or leak".

"Our network has experienced no pressure loss which indicates the gas pipelines are intact. Our customers in the area continue to receive gas uninterrupted," the company said in a statement.

"It's a miracle there are no fatalities," said Panyaza Lesufi, the provincial Premier of Gauteng, which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Forty-one people were injured, including two in a critical condition, nine seriously injured and 30 with minor injuries, according to Lesufi.

"(The) situation is completely under control," he said.

Experts would "get the full view and advise us", he said.

"The damage is extensive. It's a bad situation... It was peak time."