Sadness and shock were deeply etched on the face of 39-year-old Zimbabwean Itai Marwa after a raging fire in Crossroads killed two couples and a toddler he shared a house with on Monday May 25.
The fire in the double-storey house started after 9pm. The cause has not been confirmed.
Mr Marwa said both couples and the boy, aged a year and seven months, were downstairs when the fire started.
He said he and his wife decided to go to bed after watching a movie and playing cards with their housemates.
“I am still in shock over what happened last night … everything happened so quickly,” Mr Marwa told Vukani.
“My wife and I went to bed upstairs and left the four downstairs still watching the movie.
Before I fell asleep, I was listening to music on my phone and I put on my earphones so I was unaware of the external noise.”
He said, he, however, heard a bang on the front door and when he opened his eyes, he saw smoke coming from downstairs into their room.
“I opened the window to see what was happening. All I saw was smoke coming out from the window downstairs, I still thought the smoke was coming from next door. I got up and got dressed, when I opened the door, I only saw smoke, the whole passage was covered in smoke,” he said.
I went back to my room and woke my wife and told her the house is on fire.
There were men outside from the Crossroads patrol committee who told us to jump from the window and they would catch us. I encouraged my wife to jump first. They caught her and I jumped after her. When I was on the ground, I noticed that the fire was reaching the upper room,” he said.
Mr Marwa said he is struggling to come to terms with what happened. He said the deceased were not just housemates but family. “I lost my family, we all come from Zimbabwe,” he said.
When Vukani arrived at the scene, the charred bodies of the deceased were still inside the building. The freezing weather did very little to stop shocked residents from gathering on the scene.
Gcinikhaya Nomdabula, a member of Crossroad Patrol, said they were doing their rounds when they saw the house on fire. He said patrol members with the help of residents managed to help Mr Marwa and his wife. “We came at the right time. We were on duty around 11pm and we saw the house on fire here. The patrol together with the residents pulled our weight to help this couple to survive. We thank the patrol team that assisted, he said.
City of Cape Town fire and rescue services spokesperson, Jermaine Carelse, said they received the emergency call at 23.30pm on Monday and when crews from Gugulethu, Mitchell’s Plain and Lansdowne arrived on the scene they found a double-storey house on fire in Imboniso Road.
He said a search of the property led to the discovery of the bodies of a man, woman and a boy in the garage and another two bodies of a man and woman in the bedroom on the ground floor.
“The fire was extinguished just before 1am and the entire area was cordoned off by the South African Police Service,” he said.