14 kids, two teachers hurt in gas explosion at Soshanguve crèche in Pretoria
14 children sustained serious burns at a crèche in Soshanguve and are recovering at a Pretoria hospital after they were wounded in a gas explosion while sleeping in a room on Monday, 27 May 2019. The incident occurred at about 15h00 and the fire gutted most of what was inside the one-room crèche where the children were sleeping. Social Development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza visited hospitalised kids on Tuesday, 28 May 2019. She said most of them suffered more than 20 percent burns over their bodies. She said one child was in ICU, one was discharged, while the rest were still in hospital.
“It’s heartbreaking to see young ones in such excruciating pain,” she said. “It’s just as sad to see their helpless parents going through such trauma.” She said they will provide counselling for the victims.
Debris, toys and other items were scattered on the floor as police tried to pick up clues. Residents said the owner, a church leader, did not adhere to safety requirements. They claimed the owner was more concerned about making money than the welfare of the children.
Some residents said they heard blood-curdling yells after the gas explosion. They heard a loud thump, followed by a cloud of smoke. A neighbour said at first he thought the smoke was coming from a car workshop next to the crèche. “I was shocked when I saw one of the teachers hauling the children out of the crèche.”
Most of the children were taken by taxi to Dr George Mukhari Hospital. Tshwane Emergency Services subsequently arrived and helped put out the fire.
The Soshanguve Block S crèche where 14 children and two teachers were injured following the gas explosion was not compliant with safety regulations.
Local councillor Phumzile Hlatshwayo said the unfortunate incident touched the hearts of many in the community. “How many crèches follow the same modus operandi? There is no safety element and compliance whatsoever. These children were sleeping in a room that also had a gas cylinder.”
Hlatshwayo said he called the principal, who was distraught. “She couldn't give an answer when I asked what type of crèche this was."
The principal was not immediately available for comment. It was also not clear how severely wounded the children were, but the residents said they feared the worst. Most of the children were taken by taxi to Dr George Mukhari Hospital. Emergency services subsequently arrived and helped put out the fire.
Some residents described the crèche as a jewel of the area, saying it was close to a main taxi route between Block W and Block S. This made it convenient for parents and guardians to drop the children off in the morning on their way to work. The crèche is linked to a residential house and church.
The residents called on authorities to inspect the premises and deal with the owner for non-compliance with safety regulations.
MEC for Social Development Nandi Mayathula-Khoza visited the children in hospital. The MEC said the safety of children at preschools was a concern. “The kids must be safe at all preschools throughout the country. The first thing that we need to ensure happens is that the crèche is in a safe space.”