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Kimberley - A 12-year-old girl was seriously injured after a brick wall collapsed on top of her while she was walking down the stairs at Denise Court, at the Roodepan flats, at the weekend.
The Roodepan police, ambulances and the municipal firefighters rushed to the scene, where hundreds of people had gathered on Saturday at about 4pm.
Residents also complained that the derelict building posed a grave danger.
Sol Plaatje emergency services had to demolish a section of the staircase to prevent further injury and have cordoned it off.
ER24 paramedics, who transported the patient to the Kimberley Hospital indicated that the patient, Monique Brandt, had sustained serious head, neck, shoulder and back injuries.
The Roodepan Primary School learner had to undergo a number of tests to determine the extent and severity of her injuries on Saturday but was later discharged and is recovering at home.
Her father, Roderick Brandt, who was sitting downstairs at the time of the incident, sharing a beer with neighbours, said that he felt powerless when he witnessed how the bricks came tumbling down. “I wanted to help my daughter but I couldn’t do a thing.”
He added that he was still in a state of shock and was concerned that his daughter may have suffered permanent damage.
Stanley Norman, a neighbour, said that he heard a loud thud as the bricks pelted Monique, causing her to collapse.
Another neighbour, Marlon van Wyk, added that his children Kristin and Teslin nearly suffered the same fate.
“I called my children, who are four and two years old, inside the house, about five minutes before the wall caved in. We are living in a dangerous environment,” he said.
“Building inspectors never come to the flats although the walls are cracked and this neglected building is broken and rusted. How many lives need to be lost before something is done to improve safety?”
Van Wyk added that the staircases of the other blocks of flats in Roodepan had also been condemned.
“The residents are now forced to make use of the dark stairways that are unlit but are afraid because they are frequented by drug lords, rapists and other criminals.”
Van Wyk pointed out that there were also no fire escapes in the building.
“Should a fire break out, the residents will be trapped. The flats do not comply with the safety requirements, yet we are living here like rats.”
Residents said that they had repeatedly brought the wobbly stairs and dilapidated state of the flats to the attention of the ward councillor, who was “not interested” in their problems.
“The councillor is only interested in our votes and drinks beer all day at his tavern. He is nowhere to be found when there is a crisis,” one resident said.
Ward councillor, Vaughan Settley, visited the family on Sunday and explained that his absence was because of an ANC warm-up campaign that he had to attend ahead of the by-elections in Warrenton on Wednesday.
“We regret this tragic incident and will engage with the Department of Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs to look into the matter because there are several structural defects and loose roofs. I have also spoken to the municipal manager to get a team to investigate what happened,” Settley said.
“If there are loose structures, we do request the Sol Plaatje Municipality to go in and correct it. I don’t drink beer during the week and I have met with the residents on several occasions. Once I report the problem, it is in the hands of the municipality to fix.”
He added that millions of rands was owed by Roodepan flats residents in unpaid rent.
“There is no revenue, yet people expect full services. It is one of the oldest flats in the country and was once the most beautiful,” Settley added.
Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesman, Sello Matsie, acknowledged that the poor state of the buildings had been reported before.
“We do need to improve maintenance as well as prevent further harm.” He indicated that residents would have to make use of the other entrance, although he admitted that criminal activity such as drug dealing was a challenge.
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