Rally of support after fire at East Rand old age home

2010-08-02 14:56

The public have offered their help to a welfare organisation in Nigel on Monday (August 2, 2010) after 18 people were killed and more than 80 left homeless following a fire at an old age home.

“It is wonderful how people are trying to help,” said Elaine Coetzee, executive secretary of Meals on Wheels Community Services.

She said members of the public had phoned in to offer “anything from clothes, to food, to money”.

Coetzee said the welfare organisation had a long-standing relationship with the Pieter Wessels old age home, where 17 people were killed in a fire on Sunday evening and an eighteenth person died of a heart attack after being rescued.
A total of 84 elderly people, many of them disabled, were rescued from the fire.

“We need clothes, adult nappies, bedding, food,” said Coetzee.

Earlier, Pieter Wessels Frail Care and Community Centre spokesperson Remsie Visser said the building was destroyed in
the fire. The cause of the fire was being investigated.

“They lost everything, all their belongings. Everything is gone. They came out with nothing but their pyjamas,” she said.

Visser said she received a call early on Sunday evening that there was a fire at the old age home in Nigel.

“They said I must come and help. The entire building went up in flames. We called the fire brigade and just tried to get people out, and waited for help. Most of them are disabled. We couldn’t get everyone out. We are in a terrible state of shock,” said Visser.

She said fire fighters worked until the early hours of the morning to extinguish the blaze.

“Only the walls are still standing,” said Visser.

The pensioners had all been moved to other old age homes in the area by midday.

“They are in a state. Some are crying because they only realised now that they had lost everything. Some are too shocked to speak.”

Netcare 911 spokesperson Chris Botha said three people were hospitalised. Of those, one person was in a critical condition with 40% burn wounds, while two others had sustained serious injuries.

Police spokesperson Tommy Tomlinson said forensic investigators were on the scene to try to establish the cause of the fire.

Gauteng Health and Social Development MEC Qedani Mahlangu visited the scene of the fire on Monday morning.

“Mahlangu sends her condolences to the families of those who passed away at the Pieter Wessels old age home,” her office said in a statement.

The department had identified Zanele Mbeki home, formerly known as Tina Foster home, in Dunnottar to accommodate the survivors.

“Counselling services are also being offered to the survivors, their families and the families of the deceased,” said Mahlangu.

Social Development Minister Edna Molewa also conveyed her condolences to the families and friends of the deceased.

“We convey our heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased, saddened that death has robbed us of an opportunity to learn from their wisdom and fulfilling experiences that could shape our understanding of the times we live in,” Molewa said in a statement.

“It is shocking that these old people lost their lives defencelessly under such circumstances, at a place they called home,” said Molewa.

The Democratic Alliance in Springs called on the community to show its compassionate side and help those affected by the fire.

Anyone wanting to make donations of food and clothes should contact the Zanele Mbeki home.

Financial donations can be made to TC Adra, Absa Bank, account number 1001390755, branch code 334143, reference P Wessels FCC.

The public can also contact Pastor Louis Gouws on 016-342-0308.

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