Retirement-home fire: Death toll rises

Four more people have died as a result of a fire at a Nigel retirement home, raising the death toll to 22, the Gauteng health department said on Tuesday.

“Three of the deceased died last night [Monday, two at Pholosong Hospital and one at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital. This morning [Tuesday] the fourth resident died at Pholosong Hospital,” said departmental spokesperson Mandla Sidu in a statement.

Seventeen people died in the fire, most of them burnt beyond recognition. DNA testing to identify the remains was set to begin on Tuesday.

An eighteenth person died of a suspected heart attack after the fire.

The fire broke out at Pieter Wessels old -age home at about 9pm on Sunday, leaving more than 40 pensioners with injuries.

Eighty-four people were rescued.

Meanwhile, the survivors of the blaze are still in shock, a home spokesperson said on Tuesday.

“They are still very shocked, the fact that they lost all their belongings,” said Pieter Wessels Frail Care and Community Centre spokesperson Remsie Visser.

“All of us are very worried about them because those people are like our family.”

Sidu said counselling services were being offered to the survivors, their families and the families of the deceased.

“Some of them, given the events that happened, were very emotional. That’s why we provided them with counselling for them and their families,” said Sidu.

Survivors of the fire had been transferred to the Zanele Mbeki Home and the Nigel Old-Age Home, with arrangements being made for further old-age homes.

“They definitely need help, I’m not sure Zanele Mbeki has enough space for them,” said Visser. — Sapa

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