Fire unites Bulawayo community
The Mater Dei Hospital in
BULAWAYO – Fire caused extensive damaged to
the Intensive Care Unit of Mater Dei Hospital on Friday night. One patient
suffered burns during the evacuation of the hospital by the Bulawayo Fire
Brigade, but scores of patients escaped unhurt.
On-the-spot helpers remarked in wonder at the
calm which prevailed, the superb command the Fire Brigade assumed and the way
they brought things under control. The fire, whose origin had not yet been
established by the time of going to press, broke out at around 9pm on Friday and
was contained an hour later.
The fire brigade initially concentrated on
evacuating patients and saving equipment and some provisions at the institution,
one of the country’s best, before putting out the fire.
“It appears the
fire started at roof level and it is presumed that the cause was electrical,
within the roof cavity itself . It then spread from the roof downwards. That it
was contained at the fourth floor level within an hour was nothing short of
miraculous,” said an observer.
“The way in which the local community
responded to the desperate plight of the hospital was heroic. Professional
staff, neighbours, the young of the town joined hands to do all manners of work
moving the sick, the seriously ill and the dying, to refuge from the flames. One
man died and one baby was born in the gardens outside the hospital,” he
“The fire was reported to us at 22:29 and we arrived at the scene
three minutes later, but when we got there the roof was already collapsing,”
said Bulawayo Fire brigade spokesperson, Linos Phiri, adding they were still
trying to establish the cause of the fire.
Most of the evacuated patients
spent the night on the hospital grounds, while the rescue services were making
frantic arrangements to transfer patients to other
Apparently authorities at Mater Dei hospital were
negotiating with officials at the underutilised Ekusileni Medical Centre to
arrange transfer of patients, but this hospital is a shell and no more. It has
no power, no furniture and no equipment! According to sources, the centre, a
brainchild of late nationalist and former Vice President Joshua Nkomo, remains
unused due to disagreements among its board of directors.
One resident of
Bulawayo sent us this comment: “Yesterday morning I spoke to a Muslim lady who's
sister had just come out of the recovery room at Mater Dei and she witnessed the
whole procedure and said that she wouldn't live anywhere else in the world
except in Bulawayo. When there is a crisis, the entire population Christian,
Jew, Muslim, black, white and coloured all just get on and work together for the
common good. She hugged me there in the Hillside Kwikspar and said ‘God smiles