The death toll in the Sydney nursing home fire allegedly started by a staff member has risen to six after a 79-year-old woman died of her injuries yesterday.
The woman, who has not been named, died in Liverpool Hospital, in western Sydney. Several elderly residents of the Quakers Hill Nursing Home are still in a critical condition after Friday's blaze, which police allege was started when 35-year-old registered nurse Roger Dean set fire to bedsheets in two rooms.
As authorities struggled to rehouse survivors in other aged care facilities, the New South Wales Premier, Barry O'Farrell, ordered a report on the screening of nursing home staff, as well as the "physical structure" of homes and retirement villages.
Police have refused to confirm reports that Dean was interviewed by officers about a separate matter, reportedly an alleged theft, the night before the fire. According to local media, he left his previous job at another nursing home after a dispute with management.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
One of the rooms where the two separate fires started was empty, while the other was occupied by Alma Smith, 73, and another woman yet to be identified. Both died at the scene, as did another woman. Lola Bennett, 86, died in hospital later on Friday, while 97-year-old Ella Wood died in hospital on Saturday. Dean said nothing when he made a brief appearance in Parramatta Court via video link on Saturday. He did not apply for bail, and was remanded in custody to appear in court again on Thursday.
Fighting their way through thick smoke, fire officers and police evacuated nearly 90 old people, some of them weak, blind or suffering from dementia.
Speaking in Bali, where she was attending the East Asia Summit, the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, expressed sympathy for victims and their relatives. "To imagine frail elderly people caught up in a fire like that, at risk of being engulfed by the flames, is truly horrifying," she said.
Gary Green, whose father, Reg, survived, told the Sunday Telegraph he had been covered in soot and had to have his clothes cut off him.
The Australian reported that five homes owned by Domain Principal Group, which runs the Quakers Hill facility, had received sanction notices from the NSW Department of Health and Ageing for failing to comply with regulations.