Sunday Times

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.

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