6 die in fire as Red Ants evict tenants

Six people were confirmed dead in a fire that broke out in the Kruger Park flats in central Pretoria yesterday.

Six people were confirmed dead in a fire that broke out in the Kruger Park flats in central Pretoria yesterday.

Superintendent Eugene Opperman said two people jumped out of the burning building and three people died inside after the fire broke out in the morning.

The fire, which was allegedly started by residents of Kruger Park in the rubbish chute of the building after the Red Ants (security guards) began evicting their neighbours in the Schubart Park block, was extinguished just after noon.

Opperman said 13 people had been rescued from the roof of the building in an operation involving three police helicopters and three air force helicopters. One fixed-wing aircraft was also deployed.

The number of people injured has yet to be determined.

Opperman said the rubbish chute had been damaged in the fire but the building itself was "okay".

No alternative accommodation had been considered for the residents because it was not deemed necessary.

The Anti-Privatisation Forum said it feared seven people had died in the blaze and that residents of Schubart Park were "frantic" about the security of their homes.

"The Red Ants have, on the back of the tragedy, been deployed to empty the building of residents' belongings, effecting an eviction which is being contested," the forum said.

It said residents' representatives were trying desperately to gain an interdict from the Pretoria high court against the eviction.

Meanwhile, the divisional commissioner of visible policing, Arno Lamoer, has expressed appreciation for the "heroic efforts" of the police's air wing.

A police crew member stayed on the burning premises to help in evacuating victims who could not be reached by other emergency personnel.

"I would like to personally thank members of the SAPS Air Wing for their heroic and selfless efforts. I have no doubt that our pilots and crew can be counted as among the best in any police service in the world and I have every confidence that they will continue rendering a professional airborne law enforcement service to the people of South Africa," said Lamoer.

He also commended other police and emergency services personnel for their efforts.

Gauteng Provincial Commissioner Perumal Naidoo had also expressed his "absolute admiration" for all those involved in the rescue operation, said Opperman.

". and especially to the pilots of the SANDF and SAPS who time and again took people off the roof of the burning building. Everyone is rather proud." - Sapa