Deadly Chatsworth inferno

2014-06-07 00:00

FIRST there was an explosion and then the panicked screams of the children and adults who lived at a house on Erica Avenue in Chatsworth.

Distraught neighbours of a family of six and their live-in domestic worker yesterday spoke of their anguish at not being able to help them.

The house was razed — reportedly after a gas cylinder exploded at 4.30 am.

Pakistani national Mukraam Warsi, his wife Zainub, their three children, Tyieaba (8), Syhieba (4) and Rehaan (17 months) all died in the fire. Zai­nub’s mother, Zarina Ebrahim (55), and a domestic worker who was only identified as Thokoza also died in the flames.

Zarina had only arrived from Pakistan two weeks ago to visit her grandchildren.

Wayne Malliah, a neighbour who lives across the road from the house, said he heard an explosion followed by screams.

In a matter of minutes the house was engulfed in flames as shocked onlookers could only call for help on their cellphones.

“By the time we called for help the house was on fire. The fire truck arrived but it was too late,” said Malliah.

The house, which had burglar guards all around, was partitioned, and the Warsi and the Suleman families were tenants.

Mohammed Suleman, whose wife and two children survived the inferno, said he was woken by an explosion and then there was smoke everywhere in the house. He said he heard his neighbours’ screams for help but could not help because the fire had already engulfed his part of the house.

“I can’t forgive myself for not being able to help people under the same roof as mine. The problem is that the house is partitioned and the burglar guards made it difficult for them to escape. By the time I realised that there was trouble the roof had started caving in.

“I managed to break through a window and pry apart the burglar bars in my room and pushed my wife and kids through. By then the entire house was in flames,” said Suleman.

His wife Shaista said the families relied on candles and gas stoves — their electricity had been disconnected after they failed to pay their bills. “We don’t have illegal connections. We depend on candles and gas stoves. I don’t know what exactly happened here. I thank God for saving my little babies Aisha and Moindheen but at the same time my heart bleeds for the deceased,” she said.

Zarina’s niece, Fazila Hoosen, said her aunt had told her she had missed her grandchildren while she was in Pakistan.

“She adores them. She came back specially to be with them and since her arrival she has been with them. She made no indication as to when she would be going back to Pakistan,” said Hoosen.

Regional commander of the fire department, Zibuse Ngcece, said they are aware that the house had no electricity connection. “However, it is too early to tell whether a gas cylinder explosion or a candle caused the fire. Every room of the house is a mess so investigators will have to tread carefully when searching for the cause of the fire.”

Social Development MEC Weziwe Thusi said this tragic incident should be a reminder for people to be extra careful during winter. She sent social workers to counsel the survivors.

“Our social workers have already met with the survivors and will be assisting them with all their needs. The relatives of the deceased will also be assisted,” Thusi said in a statement.

Chatsworth police have opened an inquest docket.

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