Overcome Heights fire victims fall ill after eating donated food

Fire victims who received food from an unknown source became ill after eating it.

Fifty people who had received food donations and afterward complained about severe cramps were rushed to the Retreat Community Health Centre and Mitchell’s Plain Community Health Centre.

What is believed to be food poisoning affected 30 adults and 20 children on Wednesday October 13.

Natalie Watlington, spokesperson for Western Cape Government Health Department, confirmed that their Emergency Medical Service (EMS) had responded to an alleged food poisoning incident in Saint Patrick Avenue, Seawinds last week.

“A call for assistance came through to the emergency communications Centre at 8.28pm and EMS officials were dispatched to Overcome Heights informal settlement,” she said.

“Paramedics arrived at the scene and assisted patients who complained about severe abdominal cramps after they had ingested food that was handed out to them.”

Ms Watlington said with the assistance of ER24, the patients were transported to Retreat CHC and Mitchell’s Plain CHC. “We are following up with Mitchell’s Plain CHC but can confirm that 17 patients were admitted to Retreat CHC on October 13. One has been transferred to Victoria Hospital,” she said.

Community leader Karen Mentoor said a few victims of the fire in Overcome Heights (“Fire victims need mattresses”, Southern Mail, September 29) had approached her in distress “asking me to come and have a look as people have been complaining of stomach pains after they ate some food”.

She said she contacted her fellow community leader Fouzia Cassiem and they found people vomiting and some had diarrhoea. “One child fainted due to the pain in the stomach. We called disaster risk management to find out who donated the samp and tomato food.”

She said no one knew who had donated the food that evening, “as no one reported to us before they handed out the food”.

She said it is protocol for any donors to notify the community leaders first. “I spoke to one of the disaster risk management members and he took a sample of the food, to have it tested,” said Ms Mentoor.

Southern Mail did not get a response from Disaster Risk Management by the time this story was published.