Prisoners freed from burning court building

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pretoria - City of Tshwane fire rescuers have managed to set free 12 prisoners from a burning court building after a fire broke out at the Pretoria Magistrate's Court on Monday.

Spokesperson for the Department of Community Safety, Console Tleane, confirmed late on Monday that the prisoners were rescued at exactly 2pm.

"Rescuers had to cut the cell bars to evacuate the prisoners. All 12 of them were taken out to safety and received immediate para-medical care on the scene.

"All of them suffered from smoke inhalation were visibly shaken. They were all transported to the Steve Biko Academic Hospital for further medical care." Two of the fire fighters were also taken to hospital for smoke inhalation.

The cause of the fire is unknown, neither is the exact location where it might have started, Tleane said, adding that the investigations into the cause of the fire will be undertaken by the Fire Brigade Services and police.

However, the spokesperson said it could have "started from the storeroom in the basement of the court. The room contained used papers and cupboards and nothing valuable was in the room."

When the fire broke out, all court occupants at the time were evacuated but the 12 prisoners were trapped inside the cells.

The Tshwane Fire Brigade had to execute two operations at the same time. The first was to put out the fire and the second challenge was to get the prisoners out of the cells.

The incident led to traffic in the city being gridlocked, leading to the closure of intersections - corner Pretorius and Bosman; corner Schubart and Church; and corner Schoeman and Potgieter.

The streets were opened at around 3:30pm. However, Schubart Street, between Schoeman and Potgieter Streets, remained closed.

The department has congratulated the gallant fight put up by fire fighters to save the lives of everyone involved.