Fire at PE old age home 'could have been prevented'

Lizeka Tandwa,News24

Johannesburg - The fire that killed three men at an old age home in Port Elizabeth could have been prevented, its manager Mike Tsietso said on Monday.

Speaking to News24, the Ekuphumleni old age home manager said they had previously asked the social development department to install fire detectors.

But, he said, nothing was done.

This comes after three people died at the old age home when it caught fire on Saturday night. Two people with epilepsy died of smoke inhalation. A third, who was wheelchair bound, died from burn wounds.

Tsietso said they were still shocked and traumatised by the deaths.

"We don’t know what started the fire and investigations are still underway. We had to make sure that all the elderly who were traumatised received counselling. We are all still in shock and mourn the deaths of the three men that died," he said.

Tsietso said the three victims were aged between 70 and 75. He said the three men were full of life and were loved by staff and residents at the home. The home houses 37 senior citizens.

Tsietso said Eastern Cape Social Development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi visited the home on Sunday. He said Sihlwayi assured him that more would be done to improve conditions at the home.

But, said Tsietso, this was "too little too late".

"Government takes time to heed calls for help. We had asked to have fire detectors installed at the home, but nothing was done... Maybe they will act [more quickly] now."

Tsietso said he first made the appeal after Nelson Mandela Bay Mayor Danny Jordaan visited old ages homes in July.

This was after the brutal attack on an 86-year-old woman at Port Elizabeth's Adcock retirement home in Schauderville.

Tsietso said, while the infrastructure at Ekuphumleni was not falling apart, they still needed assistance.

Jordaan's chief of staff, Mlungisi Ncame, said Jordaan visited Ekuphumleni on Monday where he was informed by its management that they were in dire need of funding.

"They do not get enough money to maintain the conditions of the home unfortunately; they do not have any donors. They told Jordaan that their only source of income is the rent from residents," Ncame said.

Ncame said the municipality would assist the families of the deceased with funeral arrangements.

The Eastern Cape social development department was yet to respond to e-mails.