Hydrants ‘broken’ as fire raged
Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg, which has been closed after a fire forced the evacuation of nearly 700 patients, had no working fire hydrants.
This was the claim of Wynand Engelbrecht, the CEO of Fire Ops SA, a private company that took part in the firefighting operation.
The fire broke out at 11.30am on Friday, and at 9.30pm the health department said it had “reignited”. But Engelbrecht disputed this. “There is no such thing. The reason the fire couldn’t be controlled continuously is because the fire hydrants on the premises are out of commission. They are not working because of a lack of maintenance,” he told the Sunday Times.
Engelbrecht said he would write to the ministers of health, co-operative governance and public works to call for a “complete revamp” of the Parktown hospital’s fire protection system.
“As it stands, the building is a death trap,” he said after premier David Makhura said yesterday the hospital would remain closed for a week.
“I was at the hospital and I initiated the evacuation of the hospital,” said Engelbrecht. “By 9pm there was no clear plan. The hospital does not have something as simple as an emergency plan. It was a total disaster because there was no plan.”
Engelbrecht also said there were insufficient fire engines at Johannesburg’s 30 fire stations.
In a written parliamentary answer on March 30, co-operative governance minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said that of 21 fire engines in the City of Johannesburg, only six were operational, compared with 57 in Ekurhuleni and 25 in Tshwane.
Gauteng government spokesperson Vuyo Mhaga said yesterday that fire engines were being shared between Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni, which meant there was no shortage.
Makhura said yesterday the fire had affected the hospital car park, where a floor had caved in. On Friday, Gauteng health department spokesperson Kwara Kekana said the fire had affected the dispensary.