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Nursing home fire kills 18 in South Africa

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Eighteen elderly residents died after the nursing home fire
  • Emergency workers rescued 84 people
  • Three of the rescued were seriously injured

Johannesburg, South Africa (CNN) -- Eighteen elderly residents died Sunday night after a fire broke out at a Nigel, South Africa nursing home, according an emergency services spokesman.

Chris Botha, a Netcare (911) Limited spokesman, said another 84 residents escaped the flames. Three of those were taken to hospitals for serious injuries.

When paramedics and firefighters arrived, the building was engulfed in flames and emergency personnel worked to rescue the elderly from the burning building.

After the blaze was extinguished, firefighters found 17 victims had died in the inferno. Another resident died of a suspected heart attack after being transported to a safe holding area at a local church, Botha said.

Many of the elderly were disabled, according to news reports from the South African Press Association.

"They lost everything, all their belongings," Pieter Wessels Frail Care and Community Centre spokeswoman Remsie Visser told the Press Association. "Everything is gone. They came out with nothing but their pyjamas."

"We called the fire brigade and just tried to get the people out and waited for help ... We couldn't get everyone out. We are in a terrible state of shock."

The remaining residents had been moved to area nursing facilities by Monday afternoon.

Nigel is east of Johannesburg.