South Africa’s Environment Minister, Barbara Creecy, says the spill from a chemical plant attacked by rioters in July in the port city of Durban has caused an environmental disaster.
She said it could several years for the local coastline to recover.
Giving details of a preliminary investigation, the minister said a criminal case had been opened against the chemical company, UPL, which was found not to have obtained environmental permits to run the plant.
UPL has not admitted liability.
Its warehouse was torched during the widespread riots sparked by the prison sentence given to South Africa’s former president, Jacob Zuma.