Survivors of Springs fire lost ‘everything’

2011-06-13 11:22

Arrangements were underway to accommodate the survivors of a fire that killed 12 people in the women’s wing of the Struisbult Care Centre in Springs, Ekurhuleni.

Gauteng health department spokesman Sello Mokoena said: “The people affected are being taken to the Zanele Mbeki centre. They have lost everything.”

Some of the 27 people who were injured were being treated at the Pholosong and Far East Rand hospitals in the region, while relatives and friends were being counselled in a facility set up in another section of the centre.

Others had been treated on site for smoke inhalation and shock.

“Family members have arrived and they are being attended to for support and counselling,” said Mokoena.

“They are being told what has happened and are being taken to identify their loved ones.”

The wing had accommodated 59 people. It was gutted by the fire this morning and the roof collapsed, leading emergency services to declare that part of the building unsafe.

Gauteng Health MEC Ntombi Mekgoe and Ekurhuleni Mayor Mondli Gungubele were among those on site after fire fighters managed to put the flames out.
“She was shocked,” said Mokoena of Mekgoe.

The registered private facility, which receives a subsidy from the province, specialises in caring for people who are elderly and frail as well as younger mentally disabled people.

The centre accommodates up to 155.

Ekurhuleni emergency services spokesman Rogers Mamaile said a committee and a joint operations centre had been formed to co-ordinate social support and clean-up activities.

He said none of the fire fighters were injured in the rescue operation.

Netcare911 spokesman Jeffrey Wicks called fire fighters’ efforts “praiseworthy”.

By 2am fire fighters had the fire under control and were damping down the smouldering building.

Ekurhuleni metro spokesman Zweli Dlamini said the scene was attended by Ekurhuleni and Gauteng emergency services, as well as Netcare911 and ER24.
He said rescue teams split into two – with one team fighting the blaze and the other evacuating residents.

Captain Johannes Ramphora described the scene as “terrible”.

He said the fire was reported at midnight and when the police arrived fire fighters were already working to extinguish the blaze.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known but forensic investigators would be on the scene.

In August, 22 people died in a fire at the Pieter Wessels home for the aged in nearby Nigel, Gauteng.

According to spokesperson for that centre, Remsie Visser, plans have been submitted to rebuild the home but without a frail care section.

They have broken down and cleaned up what they could and are waiting for final approval to start building again.

That fire was found to have been caused by a cigarette.

She said no-smoking signs could still be seen in the remains of that building.

Survivors of that fire were also taken to the Zanele Mbeki centre and, said Pieterse, when she saw them they said they longed for the new centre to be built.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance’s constituency head for Springs and Nigel, Glenda Steyn, said she was pleased that Mekgoe and Gungubele had visited the site but also called on all DA Far East Rand councillors to tour all care facilities with the relevant fire departments to check on fire safety.

“Last August, 22 elderly people died at the Pieter Wessels old age home in Nigel, and now this is the second such tragedy in less than a year. One life lost is a life too many,” said Steyn.

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