Sadness was etched into the faces of the residents of Thabo Mbeki informal settlement, in Philippi, as they mourned the death of siblings Andikhusele, 5, Alunamnda, 3, Mhaga, and family friend Mzwamadoda Dwayi, 31, who perished when their three roomed shack caught fire on Friday February 26.
When Vukani visited the scene just few hours after the tragedy, relatives, friends and residents were battling to come to grips with sudden death of their loved ones.
The devastated mother, Nolukholo Mhaga, said she had only managed to save two of her children but was unable to get to the other two and her friend. Her three other children were not with her at the time.
She told Vukani she had been fast asleep when the fire started. She said she had noticed smoke coming in from outside her door and grabbed her 7-year-old son and 10-month-old daughter.
Then she shouted at her friend to grab the other two and get out. She kept shouting, she said, and he replied that he was coming, but never made it out. By that time the fire had become more intense and she was not able to go back in and save her children.
“I have no idea how the fire started because we were sleeping when it happened. My friend had requested to sleep over at my shack because he had a fallout with his sister.
“I do not have any slightest idea of how I will bury my children because I’m unemployed,” the distraught mother said, pleading for assistance from anyone who could help her.
“For me, it has not sunk yet that I have just lost my two precious children. I don’t know how I feel. I feel numb.”
Cape Town Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson, Jermaine Carelse, said they had received the emergency call at about 5.30am, alerting them that an informal structure was alight in the Thabo Mbeki Informal Settlement, on the corner of Symphony Way and Govan Mbeki Road.
He said when Gugulethu’s fire crew arrived on the scene they were told that there were people missing.
He said they managed to extinguish the fire just after 6am and, on searching the property, found the bodies of the man, a girl, 5, and a boy aged 3.
The cause of the fire is unknown and the scene was handed over to the South African Police Service, he added.
Community leader Mila Mpayipheli said they were woken by screams and that residents had used sand and buckets of water in their attempts to douse the fire.
She she has urged the community to do what they could to help the family bury their children.