One of world’s oldest men marks 116th birthday in South Africa

Fredie Blom (R) is given hand sanitiser by one of his wife's daughters, as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, as he celebrates his 116th birthday at his home in Delft, near Cape Town, on May 8, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 09 May 2020

One of world’s oldest men marks 116th birthday in South Africa

  • At his great age, however, he says he won’t let the coronavirus pandemic panic him

CAPE TOWN: South African Fredie Blom celebrated his 116th birthday on Friday unfazed by the coronavirus crisis, over 100 years since the Spanish flu pandemic killed his sister.
“I have lived this long because of God’s grace,” said Blom, possibly one of the oldest men in the world.
Lighting a cigarette, he recalled the 1918 pandemic that left tens of millions dead worldwide including his sister.
Blom was born in 1904 in the rural town of Adelaide, tucked near the Great Winterberg mountain range of South Africa’s Eastern Cape province.
He is older than a 112-year old British resident named the world’s oldest living man by the Guinness World Records in March. Blom’s age has not yet been verified by the body.
Grandchildren whizzed around as Blom sat on the front yard of his home. Neighbours arrived soon after to sing happy birthday.
Blom has spent most of his life working on farms around Cape Town. He met his 86-year old wife Jeanette at a dance and won her heart over with his jive moves.
The couple have been married for almost fifty years. They moved to the Cape Town suburb of Delft three decades ago.
At his great age, however, he says he won’t let the coronavirus pandemic panic him.
And he did not mince his words about South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, complaining about a nationwide ban on cigarette sales as part of a series of lockdown measures.
“He doesn’t know what he’s doing,” Blom grumbled, adding that cigarettes were his only birthday wish this year.
Blom stopped visiting doctors more than two years ago, claiming he was tired of being pricked and prodded.
“Now he just takes two Disprins a day, but sometimes he steals my pills,” Jeanette said, laughing affectionately at her stubborn husband.
While Blom never had children, he adopted Jeanette’s two from a previous marriage as his own.
“He has done everything for us,” said Blom’s step-daughter Jasmien Toerien, 38.
“He would wake up at three or four in the morning to cycle to work,” she fondly recalled. “He loves animals and gardening.”


Taj Mahal damaged in deadly India thunderstorm

Updated 31 May 2020

Taj Mahal damaged in deadly India thunderstorm

  • India’s top tourist attraction has been shut since mid-March as part of measures to try and combat the coronavirus pandemic

AGRA, India: A deadly thunderstorm that rolled across parts of northern India damaged sections of the Taj Mahal complex, including the main gate and a railing running below its five lofty domes, officials said Sunday.
One of the New Seven Wonders of the World, India’s top tourist attraction has been shut since mid-March as part of measures to try and combat the coronavirus pandemic.
AFP images showed workers assessing the railing of the main mausoleum, after the storm on Friday night battered Agra city in northern Uttar Pradesh state.
“One sandstone railing which was a part of the original structure has been damaged,” Superintending Archaeologist of the Archaeological Survey of India, Vasant Kumar Swarnkar, said.
“One marble railing which was a later addition, a false ceiling in the tourist holding area and the base stone of the main gate has also been damaged.”
He added there was no damage to the main structure of the monument to love — built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth in 1631.
Local media reports said thunderstorms and lightning on Friday killed at least 13 people in two Uttar Pradesh districts.
Fatal lightning strikes are relatively common during the June-October monsoon season.
Last year, at least 150 people were killed by lightning in August and September in Madhya Pradesh state in central India.