Paarl fire toll rises to nine

The number of people who died in a fire at a Paarl printing factory has risen to nine, the Paarl Media Group said on Saturday.

Spokesperson Nelia Burger said two more bodies had been found at the factory on Saturday in addition to the original seven people who died in a blaze which broke out on Friday.

She also said two people were released from hospital, leaving nine still under hospital care.

Two of those still in hospital remain in a serious but stable condition.

Burger said everyone was now accounted for after the blaze.

She said there had been a delay in getting the last two bodies out because the building had been left unstable after the fire.

”There were parts they couldn’t get into and the roof had caved in. It was dark inside.

”It was a massive building so they had to go through it bit by bit.”

The media group’s CEO Stephen van der Walt said: ”Bricks and mortar can be rebuilt but losing members of our team is the biggest tragedy and our priority at this time.

”We have all lost close friends and colleagues and still have employees whom are critically injured in the hospital,” he said.

”We deeply mourn the impact on human life.”

Burger said a trauma centre had been established on the factory site to support employees.

She said the company was starting a family support fund for the victims’ next of kin.

The fire was the second this year at a plant owned by Naspers’ subsidiary Paarl Media.

In February a blaze destroyed a R200-million magazine printing press at Paarl Gravure in Cape Town’s Montague Gardens, with no casualties.

Friday’s fire broke out at Paarl Print, in the Boland town’s industrial area, shortly before 8am.

The building housed offices, printing equipment, a bindery and a storage area, and the workers who died were trapped inside.

Firefighters from the adjacent Cape Winelands municipality had also been called in to help.

It is still unknown how the fire started, although police investigations into the cause were under way. – Sapa

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