Nxesi wants investigation as 7 farmworkers die from heatstroke in Northern Cape

Seven farmworkers died from severe heatstroke in Kakamas, where temperatures reached 41°C.


Employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi has called for an investigation into the deaths of farmworkers due to heatstroke.

Seven people in Kakamas, in the Northern Cape, died due to heatstroke last week.

The seven farmworkers were admitted to the Kakamas Hospital at around the same time, Dr George Pasquin said in an interview with the SABC.

The Northern Cape Department of Health has confirmed five died on Thursday, 19 January, and two on Friday morning (20 January). Another farmworker remains on a ventilator at the hospital.

One of the deceased initially fainted at work. A foreman at the farm, whose name isn’t disclosed, said a second colleague fainted while sitting in a shaded area on the farm.

Nxesi was set to visit the farms on Monday where the seven people died.

He also said his department will do “our best” to support the families of those who lost their lives.

“In passing condolences to the affected families and calling for urgent investigations, as the department of employment and labour — we will do our best to support and provide necessary services to the affected families,” Nxesi said.

What is a heatstroke?

Heatstroke is a condition caused by your body overheating, usually as a result of prolonged exposure to or physical exertion in high temperatures. This most serious form of heatstroke can occur if your body temperature rises to 40 degree Celsius or higher.

ALSO READ: Relief for KZN residents as cooler temperatures expected from Wednesday

Severe weather conditions

Large parts of South Africa are currently battling high temperatures. The SA Weather Service on Thursday warned of possible heatwaves in four provinces, including the Northern Cape.

Zandisile Luphahla, spokesperson for the MEC for agriculture, environmental affairs, rural development and land reform in the Northern Cape Mase Manopole, said the incidents occurred at farms in the Lower Orange Region.

“We are aware that most farmers, especially in the irrigation belt, are pressed for time to harvest their produce. However, it is important that we allow our people to take some breaks in between to refresh and hydrate.

“Farmers are also expected to provide sunscreen lotions and protective gear such as hats and lightweight loose clothing to their workers,” said Luphahla.

How to prevent heatstroke

Marie Morris, a physician in family medicine at Mayo Clinic, advices how to be cautious if there is an increased risk of heatstroke.

“If you take medications or have a condition that increases your risk of heat-related problems, avoid the heat and act quickly if you notice symptoms of overheating,” said Morris.

ALSO READ: What is a stroke? Symptoms and risk factors

“If you participate in a strenuous sporting event or activity in hot weather, make sure medical services are available in case of a heat emergency,” Morris added.

“Heatstroke requires emergency treatment. If left untreated, it can quickly damage your brain, heart, kidneys and muscles. The damage worsens the longer treatment is delayed, increasing your risk of serious complications or death,” she added.

ALSO READ: Northern Cape is rich in minerals but the people live as if they’re in a desert’, says Malema

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