Cause of deadly Limpopo blaze still to be determined
Pretoria – Two people died yesterday at the FH Odendaal hospital in Modimolle, Limpopo, after a fire broke out in the Covid-19 wing in the early hours of the morning.
One of them was a convicted criminal from the Department of Correctional Services, who was in the hospital for health care. The other was a hospital patient.
It is believed that the Correctional Services officer who was guarding the inmate was admitted for smoke inhalation. Also admitted in the casualty ward were two nurses and two other patients.
Speculation was rife as to what caused the fire in the ward, with some close to the matter saying an individual was smoking a cigarette, but those details remained sketchy.
Limpopo police spokesperson Brigadier Motlafela Mojalefa said they had opened two cases of inquest after the death of the pair.
“We as the police have opened two cases of inquest after the two patients died and we will be investigating further,” he said.
Limpopo Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba, who visited the hospital, urged the public to let the team of fire experts who were deployed from the SAPS, forensic pathology, and her department, to conduct investigations into what caused the fire.
She said: “There are many speculations as to what happened that we don’t want to dwell upon. We want to give the team of investigators time to work so that they tell us what could have happened. All we know at this stage is that at around 3.30am a fire broke out in one of the cubicles of the Covid-19 wards.
“Preliminary reports were that the fire broke out from within the ward, which could have been caused by anyone. But that’s just speculation and allegations.”
It is believed that nurses at the hospital managed to extinguish the fire and rescue the patients inside the ward, but the two had already died.
Ramathuba vowed to ascertain what could have been the cause of the deaths, and she sent condolences to their families.
“The deceased were patients who were severely ill, with respiratory distress and other comorbidities, but we will conduct an autopsy to establish if its the result of smoke inhalation that could have resulted in their demise. However we want to send our condolences to the patients who died.
“When people are brought to hospital we hope that they will be cared for and heal, and be reunited with their families. For them to pass on in this tragic manner is really heart wrenching. Our sincere and deepest condolences to the families of the deceased she said.”
The DA in Limpopo called for a thorough investigation into the circumstances of the fire.
Spokesperson for health Risham Maharaj said it was critical for the department and the MEC to launch an immediate investigation into the cause of the fire and to assess the extent of the damage.
“An incident like this raises issues around the hospital’s compliance with the prescribed norms and standards of the Office of Health Standards Compliance, and finding out whether this fire was caused by human error or if it was caused by faulty electrical installations or machinery and if there were functioning fire extinguishers in the facility.
“The department must also move patients affected by the fire to other wards or facilities dependent on the extent of the damage caused by the fire,” Maharaj said.