A Phillipi East pensioner has told of the harrowing ordeal of losing six family members, her son, daughter-in-law and four grandchildren, in a shack fire on Wednesday.
Gertrude Makhanda,70, lost her son Lukhangele Makhanda, 35, daughter-in-law Nosimanye Masitha, 35, and their four children – Sinovuyo, 9, Sisipho, 6, Yamkela, 4, and Isivile Masitha, 2.
The fire started early yesterday in Xhalanga Street.
Makhanda was awoken by the screams of her daughter-in-law and her grandchildren’s cries and rushed outside.
“I saw their shack was on fire. They screamed for help from the inside.
“I was powerless and started crying as I heard my grandchildren crying and begging for help as the fire took them,” said Makhanda.
She said neighbours and her nephew Abongile Skade tried to break down the door of the shack and through the walls, but the heat from the flames became too much.
The family was “distraught” and “broken”, said Makhanda.
The cause of the fire was unknown. There was no open flames or gas used in the shack, according to the family.
The city’s Fire and Rescue Services extinguished the fire before it could spread to other structures.
The victims’ charred bodies lay among the ashes as the police cordoned off the area and waited for a forensic team to arrive and remove them.
Makhanda’s nephew Skade, who lives on the same property, said the flames were already out of control by the time he came out of his shack.
“I tried to break the door down. Neighbours helped us, but we could not break it. We moved to the back of the shack but it was too difficult. I can still hear them screaming and crying inside and maybe we could have done more,” said Skade.
The City’s Fire and Rescue Services chief, Theo Layne, said: “Two adults, one male and one female and four minors all sustained fatal burns. At present the cause of the blaze is yet undetermined.”
Police spokesperson Leon Fortuin said: “Police were called to the scene and found the bodies of six family members, a 2-year-old girl, 4-, 6-, 9-year-old-boys and both parents aged 35.
“The cause of fire is yet to be established and an inquest docket has been opened for investigation.”
In Phola Park informal settlement in Gugulethu a resident was killed and five structures destroyed during a fire yesterday morning.
Layne said the man sustained fatal burns caused by an electrical short-circuit.
In another incident a man and a woman were treated for smoke inhalation after a fire broke out on the fourth floor of a flat at Mimosa, Beach Road, in Sea Point across the forecourt of the Sea Point Pavilion.
Lizaan Loedolff, co-ordinator for the Sea Point, Fresnaye, Bantry Bay Ratepayers and Residents Association (SFB) was at a meeting opposite the flat when she saw smoke billowing out of the flat and called for help.
“One male and a female were treated by ambulance staff for minor smoke inhalation. No injuries were reported.
“The block of flats was evacuated and the cause of the fire is undetermined at this time,” said Layne.