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Free State - An elderly pensioner, who decided to use a candle at bedtime because he believed the electric light bulb made his bedroom hotter, ended up suffocating to death.

The current heatwave has seen days of hot weather as temperatures have risen above normal. People, as a result, are not trying all kinds of different methods to cool down and ensure a peaceful night’s sleep.

On Wednesday night, for the third time in a row, the 72-year-old pensioner went to bed and left a candle burning while he slept. On Thursday morning he was found dead.

Nono Moiloa, who is a local tuckshop owner, said the sales of cooldrinks has increased over the week. 

“I had to buy stock twice already in a week because it is hot and people want something cold,” she said. 

And children at Serwalo Trust are at risk of drowning as they have taken to swimming at a nearby dam to cool off the heat.

Oupa Motlhabane, speaking on behalf of the family, said it is believed that the old man’s mattress caught the fire from the candle, with the smoke and fumes causing the pensioner to suffocate in his sleep. He was found lying dead in bed on Thursday morning, with burn injuries on his body.

Benny Motlhabane, who is a relative and a neighbour, says he saw the smoke around five in the morning and immediately called the police and neighbours. But it was already too late – even though the fire brigade responded quickly. 

“They forced open the door, but there were no flames so they just extinguished the ashes,” said Benny.

Temperatures in Free State, and especially around Bloemfontein, have risen up to 37°C this week. 

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