JOHANNESBURG, Aug. 2 (Xinhua) – At least 18 elderly South Africans were killed and 84 left homeless on Sunday night in a fire that raged through the Pieter Wessels old age home and frail care center in Dunnottar, east of Johannesburg.
It was unclear what sparked the late night blaze.
Talk Radio 702 in Johannesburg said paramedics, police officers and community members spent the night evacuating the retirement village and transporting the elderly survivors to places of safety.
Emergency services said a total of 102 people were on the premises at the time of the fire.
An unnamed security guard, who was at the main entrance, was quoted as saying: "The sisters just called me and said there is fire on the premises and I ran but I realized the fire was too strong. We then tried to take out the other patients."
Ekurhuleni Emergency Services' Rogers Mamaila said this was the most severe and tragic fire ever on the East Rand.
"We have fought a lot of fires and evacuated many people but we have not come to a point where the number of people that we have lost or evacuated was the same as this one," said Mamaila.
One person with 40 percent burns was airlifted to Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital, while others were pushed in with their wheelchairs to nearby churches and around eight of the aged on oxygen were transported to other retirement villages in the area.
A police spokeswoman said many of the survivors were disoriented as some had Alzheimer's disease and did not know who or where they were.