Mthatha – Two initiation school nurses have been hailed as heroes after helping save lives during a fire in which two teenagers died, the Eastern Cape Department of Health said on Sunday.
Two initiates, aged 18 and 19, burnt to death and 23 others were rushed to hospital after a fire broke out at the initiation school outside Qumbu at about 06:00 on Sunday, said departmental spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo.
The outcome of the fire could have been far worse had it not been for the two initiation nurses, who were also hospitalised, Kupelo said.
“They saved many students. If it was not for them, a number more initiates could have died.”
Kupelo said the initiation school, located in the village of Ntabasgogo, was erected in a traditional hut, made of grass.
This type of hut is built with just a small opening through which to exit, as it is traditional that when you leave the school, “you don’t walk out, but instead kneel and crawl”.
The two who died were last in the queue as escape through the small opening after the fire broke out.
Thirteen of those injured were treated for burn wounds of varying severity and were taken to hospital in Mthatha, while ten were treated for smoke inhalation.
Police and various other officials were busy at the scene and would investigate the exact cause of the fire.