IOL: Four die in Cape shack fires

Four die in Cape shack fires

December 20 2010 at 09:53am
By Chad Cupido and Natasha Nei
Copy of fatal fires


Weekend fires claimed four lives, the latest on Sunday morning when a 21-year-old from Asanda Village in Strand burnt to death in his shack in full view of relatives.

Fire and Rescue spokesman Theo Layne said of eight shack fires between Friday and Sunday three were fatal.

High summer temperatures also contributed to 104 vegetation fires.

Strand fire victim Mpho Matima lived alone in a shack behind his relatives’ home after moving from the Eastern Cape.

Matima’s aunt, Nthabeleng Matsemela, was the first to notice the fire.

She said: “I jumped up and started shouting. I immediately took all my appliances and clothes outside. I couldn’t go to the back there (to the shack). In my heart, I knew that he was gone.”

Matsemela waited outside with relatives while neighbours put out the blaze.

“When I went to the back a couple of minutes later I saw him. He was still on fire. He was burnt beyond recognition. He was on his knees with his head between his legs. What I can’t understand is why he didn’t try to escape. It’s like he just gave up.”

Matsemela believed a cigarette caused the fire.

Matima’s sister, Mampolo, 15, said she woke up after hearing the screams of her aunt (Matsemela).

“He liked sitting alone and smoking in there. There was nothing else in that room that could’ve started it.”

Mampolo said emergency services were partly to blame for his death because they “took more than an hour to arrive”.

“He was the man of the house. He protected us. I don’t know what we are going to do without him,” she said.

Other fatalities were:

– Two people who were killed in Ninth Street, Kensington, on Friday when a fire razed eight shacks.

– One person who was killed and 30 homes were destroyed in a fire in Dunoon on Friday. Neighbours suspected a disgruntled boyfriend started the fire after an argument with his girlfriend.

There were no reports of death or injuries in the other shack and vegetation fires. – Cape Times