Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fire 'kills 18' at South Africa retirement home

A fire at a retirement home in South Africa has left 18 people dead, emergency officials say.
Several more were injured in the blaze, which broke out at around 2100 (1900 GMT) on Sunday, 50km (30 miles) south-east of Johannesburg.

The cause of the fire, which gutted the Pieter Wessels retirement home in Nigel, is not yet known.

Some 84 residents were safely evacuated to a church, local media said, and several received medical treatment.
Smoke inhalation

The fire was reported by security guards who saw flames billowing from the building.
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    Maybe I saved eight or nine people but some of them were too big and I could not carry them”

End Quote Security guard

"The building was engulfed in flames and emergency personnel leaped into action to rescue the aged from the burning building," emergency services spokesman Chris Botha said.

Emergency workers searched the home after the fire was extinguished and found the remains of 17 victims inside.

An 18th resident died of a suspected heart attack shortly after having been evacuated from the building, reports said.

One man, who reportedly suffered 40% burns in the fire, was airlifted to a hospital in Johannesburg.

Two others with serious injuries were taken to local hospitals, with paramedics treating the rest for smoke inhalation at the church.

A security guard told reporters of his efforts to rescue elderly residents from the burning building.

"Maybe I saved eight or nine people but some of them were too big and I could not carry them," the guard told the news agency Agence France Press.

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