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21 Bloemhof babies admitted to hospital

North West

Johannesburg - A total of 21 babies from Bloemhof, in the North West province, have been admitted to hospital for diarrhoea since last week, the provincial health department said on Tuesday.

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Children run to fetch water in the township of Boitumelong in Bloemhof in North West on Thursday, 29 May 2014. North West health department spokesman Tebogo Lekgethwane said Bloemhof's water source had been contaminated. "The municipality also stopped water distribution to the community as it was clear the water was the source of contamination and that the water circulating was not safe," he said. He said water tankers had been sent to the area. Resident Kgomotso Moalusi said some people were not getting water from the tanks. "The water tanks are selective. They give water to their own people. They started giving water to people late last night in five litre containers." Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

Eleven babies had been admitted to Bloemhof hospital, while another 10 had been transferred to bigger hospitals in Klerksdorp and Christiana, spokesman Tebogo Lekgethwane said.

This follows over 300 people experiencing diarrhoea in the area due to a water contamination that left the town without water last week.

“Since then, we saw the number of people coming in decreasing,” he said.

Between Wednesday and Friday, about 67 people visited hospital on account of diarrhoea.

On Monday, Lekgethwane said three babies had died from diarrhoea.

The Lekwa-Teemane municipality shut down its water supply system more than a week ago. The national water affairs department on Friday said the system had been cleaned and sanitised, and water was restored on Thursday evening.

But residents said the water coming out of taps was still brown on Friday, and residents were asked to boil the water first before using it. Water samples were taken for testing, but the outcome is not yet known.

Lekgethwane said health education and awareness continued in the area.

“The water has been purified, we believe, but the department of health continues to encourage residents to continue boiling water,” he said.

“We estimate that for the next two weeks they should continue to boil water. In the meantime we will continue testing waters samples.”

On Monday, premier Supra Mahumapelo's office said Lekwa-Teemane municipal manager Andrew Makwapane had been suspended amid the water contamination crisis in Bloemhof.

“The suspension...follows a meeting...established by the premier to look into challenges facing the municipality and visits to families that lost three infants over the weekend,” spokesman Lesiba Kgwele said in a statement.

He said a forensic investigation was underway and a preliminary report was expected.

A special meeting of the provincial executive council would be held on Tuesday to discuss the matter.

“A feedback meeting with the community is to be held on Sunday afternoon after a report is finalised on Friday.” - Sapa

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