The death toll from the devastating factory fire on Gutenberg Street, Newcastle has risen to three. Sadly, one of the five injured individuals succumbed to their injuries after the incident.
Looking back, the incident that occurred on 24 June 2023, has sent shockwaves throughout the manufacturing community in the area, leaving everyone reeling from the tragic turn of events.
Alex Liu, a member of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, reflected on the incident, expressing the profound impact it has had on the manufacturing community.
“There are two factories that share the premises, and the fire began in the canteen of one. As a result, staff from both factories were evacuated. Unfortunately, some of the staff, upon seeing the smoke and underestimating the severity of the fire, rushed back into the factory to retrieve their belongings,” said Liu.
Regrettably, two of these individuals did not make it out, while the others were able to escape but required immediate medical assistance due to smoke inhalation.
Paramedics on the scene attended to them before rushing the injured to the hospital. Additionally, the factory owner, who had attempted to aid the staff members who ran back into the building, also required medical attention.
Despite the efforts of the firefighters battling the inferno, the flames eventually spread and engulfed the second factory, causing significant damage.
Lizzy Arumugam, the spokesperson for the Newcastle South African Police Service (SAPS), indicated that the fire’s origin is suspected to be an electrical fault at the factory, which employed approximately 80 individuals. However, this speculation awaits confirmation, as ongoing investigations are underway.
Arumugam sadly added that the bodies of the two deceased women were only discovered after the firefighters successfully extinguished the flames.
The five injured women were transported to the hospital for urgent medical treatment, but tragically, only four of them managed to survive the harrowing ordeal. Arumugam confirmed one of the injured has passed away in hospital.
“Including the July 2021 unrest, a total of eight factory fires have occurred. However, this is the first time a fire has resulted in such a devastating loss of life,” Liu emphasised, highlighting the unprecedented nature of the incident.
Looking ahead, he assured that immediate measures would be taken to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. This included a variety of safety measures at factories and firefighting training.
“The Department of Labour has expressed their deep regret over this tragic event, and we will be meeting with them to address the situation,” stated Liu.
As news of this heartbreaking incident spreads, it has undoubtedly left many individuals deeply affected.
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