Four young cousins died in a shack fire in Golishe Crescent, U-Section, Site B, Khayelitsha on Monday night.
Alwaba Vensile (3), her sister Zanele Vensile (1), Ayakha Vellem (6) and his younger sister Azizipho Vellem (1) died.
The area is a mixture of shacks and RDP houses. Four shacks were burnt down including the one with all four children inside. Two formal houses were damaged.
“This is very bad, I don’t know what to do,” said Lungiswa Vensile (32), mother of the two Vensile children, with tears streaming down her face. Lungiswa lives in Makhaya, a few kilometres from Site B. The shack belonged to Zukiswa Velem (28), sister of Lungiswa, and mother of the two Vellem children. She was extremely distraught and did not want to talk to the media.
Lunga Vellem is the uncle of the four children and the brother of both Lungiswa and Zukiswa. He said he was called last night by neighbours telling him about the fire. “When I got here Zukiswa’s shack was on fire. I asked neighbours if they saw my nieces but some were also asking me the same question,” said Lunga.
“I was so confused. I didn’t know what was happening. Everything happened so fast. Neighbours were fighting the fire and I was looking for Zukiswa and kids,” he said.
“This is a very terrible incident. We found my niece next to the door. It seems like they were trying to get out of the house but could not reach the door,” said Lunga holding back tears.
City of Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services, Theo Layne said that at 20:13 the City’s Fire and Rescue Service responded with four fire engines, four water tankers and a rescue vehicle including 31 firefighters. “The incident left 12 people displaced, and four children sustained fatal burns,” said Layne. He said the cause of the fire has not been established.
Lungiswa Vensile said, “I asked Zukiswa to look after Zanele and Azizipho because I always come home late and she is not working. I was waiting for my mother to come from Eastern Cape so she can look after them.”
Lungu Vellem said that the children had been left home alone, and that Zukiswa had gone to church. “I still can’t believe this, Zukiswa told me that when she left to church Alwaba and Zanele were sleeping. Ayakha and Zizipho were watching tv,” he added.
“My mother is coming tomorrow from Eastern Cape. Even I still can not believe that my nieces are gone. They died a very terrible death,” he said.
Western Cape police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut said that inquest dockets have been registered for the four deaths.
Fatal fires are a regular feature of South Africa’s townships. Social Justice Coalition Axolile Notywala said that the City of Cape Town doesn’t have a plan to prevent these kinds of disasters. “The City only acts when such incidents happen.” While Notywala acknowledged that this can’t be resolved overnight, he said the City needs to “sit around the table with relevant stakeholders and come up with a proper plan.”
In some townships, like Flamingo Crescent, the City, NGOs and residents have worked together to implement reblocking, where shacks are rearranged to increase open space, making fires less likely to spread, and it easier for emergency services to access shacks.
Source : GroundUp