Johannesburg (dpa) – Eighteen people were killed and 84 left
homeless when a fire gutted an retirement home in South Africa,
emergency services officials said Monday.
The fire at the home in Nigel, around 50 kilometres east of
Johannesburg, broke out around 9 pm (1900 GMT) Sunday, a spokesman
for Netcare 911 emergency service said.
Security guards raised the alert when they saw flames billowing
from the single-storey Pieter Wessels retirement home and frail care
The bodies of 17 people were found in the burnt-out building.
Many of the victims had died in their rooms, after finding themselves
trapped by the inferno.
One resident died of a heart attack shortly after the incident.
“It was actually horrific, how some of the people – the old frail
little people – actually burned,” Netcare’s Chris Botha told
Johannesburg’s 702 private radio station.
As firefighters battled the blaze, emergency workers managed to
rescue 84 of the 102 residents, a number of whom were wheelchair
Three were taken to hospital with serious injuries, one with
The rest were taken to two local churches, where they were being
treated by paramedics and local residents were arriving with
donations of food, clothes and blankets.
The cause of the fire was not yet known. A police forensics team
was at the scene to investigate and try to identify the victims, many
of whom had been burnt beyond recognition.
The police’s task was complicated by the fact that most of the
residents lost their identity documents in the fire.