Cape Town - Health Minister Joe Phaahla has confirmed the death toll in the Boksburg explosion has risen to 15 on Sunday.
This after a after a gas tanker exploded in a suburb close to OR Tambo Memorial Hospital on Saturday, December 24.
On Saturday the death toll stood at 10.
Inspecting the hospital which was severely affected by the blast, Phaala was joined by Gauteng MEC for health and wellness Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko.
During a briefing, he said 37 people - 24 patients and 13 staff members - who were situated in the hospital’s A&E at the time of the explosion sustained severe burns and were diverted to neighbouring medical facilities.
“Yesterday as of 6pm the death toll was at 10 people and now we are sitting at 15 people as of this morning [Sunday].
“We send our deepest condolences to the families that lost their loved ones.
“We wish a speedy recovery to those that are recuperating in hospital,” Phaahla said.
He confirmed three hospital staff members - a driver and two enrolled nurses who sustained severe burns - had died.
“As of Saturday night at 6pm the number of patients admitted in the facility is 321.
“No new patients have been admitted since then,” Phaahla said.
Visits to the OR Tambo Memorial Hospital have been suspended until further notice and those calling to check on their relatives’ well-being are urged to have patience during this time.
The hospital suffered major structural damage.
“Major structural damage was at the Accident and Emergency Unit and X-ray departments where server damage occurred. The roof was damaged, ceilings fell, widows were broken, and other equipment was damaged.
“Most of the minor structural damages were in the form of breaking of windows; ceilings fell off. On most of the floors where the windows were broken, it was observed that there was blood on the floor possibly from injured staff and or patients.
“The Casualty and Radiology departments are not accessible until structural engineers have done their work,” Phaahla said.
Structural engineers are currently inspecting and assessing the hospital.
A high-level report is expected to be released next week which will supply more details on the state of the hospital and damages.
Gauteng police are expected to open a case of negligent and reckless driving against the truck driver who drove the gas tanker.
Gauteng police commissioner Elias Mawela said the driver would be interviewed to get more information before any allegations were made.
“A negligent and reckless driving case will be opened against the driver so that we can establish whether the driver was at fault. For now, we cannot say whether he was negligent or not ... On the damaged property, we need to open a case of malicious damage to property so that we can establish who is responsible, whether it was intentional, and so forth,” Mawela said.
Addressing the media at the scene of the explosion, Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi said six firefighters were injured while trying to put out the flames.
Lesufi said a truck from the fire department, the gas truck, two cars and two houses were destroyed in the explosion, while other houses were damaged.
“We wish we could explain what happened, but it’s extremely difficult because we have to rely on those assigned in pulling out the facts,” Lesufi said.
He said he was told one family had lost four members.
Lesufi confirmed that the driver of the truck survived and has been hospitalised.
“The truck was from Richards Bay en route to Botswana, and we don’t understand how it managed to go through this area.”