DNA tests needed to trace fire victims

2011-06-14 12:18

DNA tests would have to be conducted to identify at least six of the 12 people who died in a fire at the Struisbult Care Centre in Springs, Ekurhuleni.

“Six of the deceased have already been positively identified while the other victims were burnt beyond recognition,” said Ekurhuleni Metro spokesman Zweli Dlamini.

The women’s wing of the centre was burnt down in the early hours of Monday, leaving 12 dead and 27 hospitalised.

The Gauteng health and social services department had put in place plans to facilitate the DNA testing and needed family members to come forward to help them with this.

Meanwhile, one person, recovering from pneumonia, remained in hospital today.

The remaining 26, who were treated for smoke inhalation and other injuries sustained in the fire, have already been discharged.

The entire centre has been closed for safety checks and repairs, and the elderly, frail or mentally disabled residents were placed at other facilities in the region.

These included the Zanele Mbeki and St Francis centres based on the level of care they required.

“Everyone is safe and comfortable,” said Dlamini.

He explained that an inspection at the centre, which is privately-owned but receives a government subsidy, was due for the end of this month but this had been brought forward.

Said Dlamini: “The government has decided to rather evacuate everyone for a thorough inspection or audit of the home so that if there is a need to fix certain things, this would be the opportunity to do so.”

The women’s wing accommodated 59 people. But the centre itself accommodated up to 155 people.

The team was also looking at the day-to-day operations of the facility like water, ablutions, health and safety, as well as the structure.

Once repairs are done, another inspection will be conducted and if inspectors are satisfied, residents will be moved back in.

They are hoping that technical repairs will be completed in a week but don’t want to commit themselves to an exact return date.

“In the shorter period the issue would be what can be fixed, or done as quickly as possible, and make their stay as peaceful, safe and healthy as possible,” added Dlamini.

The donation drive for blankets, toiletries, clothes and other items lost in the fire went well yesterday and people who can still help were encouraged to do so.

A memorial service for those who died is planned for 1pm at the Springs Civic Centre tomorrow.

Officials will also make use of having families together to discuss with them how they want to handle funeral arrangements.

Families who can’t locate relatives and want to help with the DNA testing, or want to know where relatives were transferred to, can call social worker Phumla Nkosi on 082 469 0595.

People wanting to offer a donation for residents can call Bongani Ngomane of the provincial department of health and social development on 082 460 3608. 

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