Weekend Argus: ‘No hope of saving them’


‘No hope of saving them’

November 28 2010 at 12:47pm

A Gugulethu mother is in hospital in a state of shock after learning that her husband, their three children and her brother-in-law died in a shack fire that destroyed 10 homes.

Mzoxolo Hlalayedwa, 34, his three children, Asoze Pomtala, 10, Onako, 8, and Esinako, 5, and his brother Siyabulela Saliti, 19, died in a fire that destroyed their shack in the Barcelona informal settlement on Friday night.

Neighbours say the fire started in the family’s shack.

Fire and Rescue spokesman Theo Layne said 10 shacks were destroyed in the blaze.

Four fire engines, three water tankers and a rescue vehicle were at the scene just after 1am and the fire took over an hour to extinguish.

Gugulethu mother Ncakiswa Pomtala was in the Eastern Cape at the time, having stayed behind after a family funeral. On receiving the news of her husband and children’s deaths yesterday, she went into shock and had to be admitted to hospital. She was unable to speak, said relatives.

Hlalayedwa’s sister, Nomathamsanqa Hlalayedwa, said she arrived at the shack to find it engulfed in flames.

“It was so hot. There was no hope of saving them.”

By the time the fire had been extinguished “the shack was finished”, she said.

Nomathamsanqa watched helplessly as her family’s bodies were removed from the burnt-out shack.

The fire follows at least three others in city’s informal settlements last week.

Residents of an informal settlement in lower Woodstock lost almost all their possessions in a blaze that broke out in the early hours of Thursday.

An elderly man was burnt to death and over 80 shacks were destroyed after the inferno left residents destitute.

On Tuesday morning one person burnt to death after a fire started among shacks in Masiphumelele and spread to surrounding formal houses. Forty-eight people were believed to have lost their homes.

That same day a man burned to death after his home, also in Barcelona, Gugulethu, caught alight, trapping him inside.

Last month the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management expressed concern over the increase in the death rate in informal settlement fires.

This was said after a mother and her 18-month-old baby boy burnt to death in a shack fire that left at least 40 people destitute in Phola Park informal settlement in Philippi.

Eight shacks were gutted and in each case the households lost all their possessions.

Spokesman Wilfred Solomons-Johannes said by last month at least 60 people had lost their lives in shack fires across the metropole this year.

He said this number could be higher as there were no statistics for the number of people who had died in hospital from shack fires.

In September six members of the Mzoboshe family, including four children under the age of five, died when their Khayelitsha shack was gutted by flames. The incident was one of many tragedies caused by a spate of fires which had taken 11 lives in just four days.

Two Steenberg children, a three-year-old and a 14-month-old baby, were killed when their Wendy house caught fire as they slept.

Despite the efforts of their father, Clint Atwood, the children could not be saved and were later found in the remains of the family home, burnt beyond recognition.

Hours after the Khayelitsha fire, a 15-month-old toddler died of smoke inhalation from a fire that broke out in a two-bedroom Belhar home.

The previous day a young boy had died in a shack fire in the Doornbach informal settlement near Milnerton.

thandanani.mhlanga@inl.co.za – Weekend Argus