Condolences poured in for 15 people, including at least eight children, who burnt to death in an orphanage outside Newcastle on Tuesday.
Minister of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities, Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya and the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government, reacted with shock at news of the fire at the Hope in Christ Home in Newcastle’s eNgogo.
“This is indeed a national tragedy and my heart goes out to the family of all those who died in this horrific way,” Mayende-Sibiya said.
According to police reports, 15 people, including the woman in charge of the home and her four children, were killed. Another nine children were hospitalised.
Mayende-Sibiya said it was unfortunate it happened during World Orphan Week, during which communities were encouraged to work with the government to help orphaned and vulnerable children.
“This is the period during which we reflect on the plight of the estimated 143-million children who are orphans around the world.”
It was believed the children burnt were aged between two and 15. Two vehicles outside the house were also destroyed.
Police spokesperson superintendent Jay Naicker said fire investigators from Pretoria were on their way to the scene to investigate the cause of the blaze.
Gas explosion suspected
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Dr Zweli Mkhize said it was suspected the fire was caused by a either a gas explosion or an electric fault.
“We are shocked and saddened that so many people, many of them children, have perished in such gruesome circumstances … we wish to convey our condolences to the families,” Mkhize said.
The provincial government said it would make every resource available to help.
Provincial health minister Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo and social development minister Meshack Radebe would visit the scene on Wednesday morning. — Sapa