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02 August 2010 – written by E Ishmail, Communication Director, Transvaal Conference

South Africa awoke to the news this morning that the Pieter Wessels Frail Care facility, which is owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Transvaal Conference, was destroyed by fire late on Sunday 01 August 2010.


By the time the night staff stumbled upon the scene of the fire just before 21h00, the heavy smoke overwhelmed them which curbed their efforts to douse the fire.  The fire soon spread via the curtains to the ceiling which then set the roofing timbers ablaze.  Alarm was raised at the local emergency services when frantic night staff summoned their help.


The 102 frail residents, many in their nineties,  who have been in 24 hour care were the focus of the rescue effort.  Staff and rescuers managed to carry out 84 residents who could save only what they had on.  When the fire fighters brought the fire under control round about 23h00, 17 bodies were carried out, found among the remains of the ruins.  Only one was recognisable.  Three of the survivors were taken to   hospital, one with very serious burn wounds.


Local volunteers and churches from other denominations stepped forward and offered temporary shelter for the survivors. 


The fire destroyed all their possessions including medication, personal documents.  There was nothing which the staff could save which belonged to the facility.  The fire destroyed everything.


Some of the staff, who number 80,  were gathered outside the premises this morning and  were visibly affected by the traumatic event.  They wandered aimlessly outside the gate of the facility which is guarded by the South African Police Services. 


Provincial government officials were on hand quickly to offer their assistance in managing many aspects of this tragedy.  Rescue officials were still on the scene this morning, together with forensic experts who sifted through the ruins for evidence of how the fire was started.


The Transvaal Conference is deeply affected by this tragedy.  A recovery plan has been put in place whose sole function is to develop immediate plans to re-house the destitute, find alternate employment for the current employees, and continue to sustain the destitute.


An appeal is made to the members of God’s church to rally to the critical need of the facility at this time.  Any donation shall be wisely applied.  Here are the bank details:


            ADRA T/C,

Absa Bank, Heidelberg branch,

Branch code:334143

Account number: 1001390755.

REF:  PWFCC20100802


It is our prayer that each of us will remain sensitive to needs of others.  The Church is reminded of the words of Jesus:  “And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Mat 25:40 


The Church extends their deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased and wish the injured a speedy recovery.

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