The community of the impoverished Taiwan informal settlement, in Site C, Khayelitsha, witnessed one of the most gruesome tragedies as a raging inferno wiped out a family of eight, on Monday May 8.
Five children from the Bangani family, Endinako, 7, Athenkosi 7, Abongile, 9 Mvano, 2, Sisipho, 14 and three adults Nonkululeko, 60; Wanda, 28; and Dumile Bangani 44, died in the fire, which destroyed four shacks, all belonging to the family.
When Vukani arrived at the scene hours after the fire, sadness and sorrow were written on the faces of the residents who had gathered at the scene to console the family.
The family were asleep when the fire broke out at about 1am. Efforts to rescue the deceased family members failed as the fire spread quickly.
Yonela Bangani, who lost her mother, Nonkululeko, and son, Endinako, said when she woke up the fire and smoke had already covered the shack.
“I smelt something funny while I was sleeping,” she said. She said she went to the kitchen and discovered that there was fire.
“There was no way that I could get out,” she said. “I kicked the zinc and that is how we managed to escape.”
Yonela said she battled to come to terms with the loss of so many family members.
“I don’t have the slightest idea of how I will carry on with my life from now on,” she said.
Ms Bangani suspected foul play as only her home was damaged. She said she was worried about the funeral arrangements as all the relevant family documents were burnt.
Making things even more difficult is the fact that no one is working in the house. They relied on the children’s social grant, while her mother sold sheep heads and beers.
Theo Layne, fire and rescue services spokesperson, said four wood and iron structures were destroyed. He confirmed the deaths of eight people, but could not speculate on the cause. He said the case had been handed over to SAPS.
Ndithini Tyhido, chairperson of the Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF), said it was horrible that the fire could kill the family. He urged the community of Khayelitsha and the nearby community to assist the family with burial arrangements.
Police spokesperson, Captain FC Van Wyk, said a woman had been taken in for questioning and “had been released pending further investigation into the matter.”
In a statement the provincial Department of Social Development said social workers were assigned to provide counselling to the family.
* In a separate incident, a 5-year-old was killed in Samora Machel, Philippi, on Tuesday evening May 8, when a shack he was in caught fire. It is believed the fire was started by the child while playing with a paper close to a “lit paraffin heater.”
Mr Layne said the child was under the bed and the grandmother who looked after him had ran out when she noticed the flames.
“She was unaware at that stage that he was still inside the dwelling,” he said.