Pretoria: Two inmates were killed and six others were injured when a group of inmates at the Belfast Correctional Centre in Mpumalanga started a fire in a cell at the facility on Saturday.
The incident, said the Department of Correctional Services, happened in the early hours of the morning. A preliminary report indicated the incident started in a cell that accommodated eight inmates.
Correctional officials were able to extinguish the fire before it spread to the other cells.
“Two inmates with higher degree burn wounds were taken to Witbank Provincial Hospital where they are still receiving high level treatment, while other inmates were treated at Belfast Hospital and returned to correctional centre, with only one still treated for smoke inhalation,” said the department’s spokesperson Manelisi Wolela.
National Commissioner of Correctional Services Zach Modise expressed shock at the incident and has sent a high-level team led by a Deputy Commissioner to investigate.
A team from the South African Police Service (SAPS) has also started their investigation and the incident has been reported to the Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services (JICS), which will also conduct its own investigation, in terms of the law and policy.
“This is a terrible incident that we shall investigate thoroughly with the SAPS. We will uncover what caused this and we shall take the necessary steps to prevent a recurrence of similar incidents. We also appreciate the rapid response of our officials who acted swiftly and managed to extinguish the fire before it could consume all eight inmates and spread to other cells,” said National Commissioner Modise.
Modise expressed condolences to families of the deceased inmates and wished those injured a speedy recovery.
A departmental delegation was dispatched to the families of the deceased and the injured to inform them about the incident.
The Department of Public Works has been deployed to assess the extent of the damage caused by the fire.
Modise urged all offenders to raise any concerns with the local management as well as the Judicial Inspectorate of Correctional Services that has Independent Correctional Centre Visitors in every centre, before embarking on self-destructive action.
All operations of the correctional centre have retuened to normal including public visits.
SOURCE: SOUTH AFRICAN OFFICIAL NEWS