18 dead and 84 homeless after retirement home fire

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

serious burns.

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.