‘They could have been saved’

2019-11-20 06:00
PHOTO: lethiwe makhanyaThe house in Willowfontein where two people died after a fire broke out.

PHOTO: lethiwe makhanyaThe house in Willowfontein where two people died after a fire broke out.

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A WILLOWFONTEIN family are searching for answers after a house fire claimed the lives of two of its members, including that of a six year-old-girl, in the early hours of Monday.

Home owner Lindeni Bhengu and the young Alwande Bhengu were burnt to death during a fire that started in their home. The cause of the fire is still unknown.

The Bhengu family told Echo that there were eight people in the house when the fire broke out and that Bhengu was allegedly the one who woke everyone up and told them about the fire.

The family was unable to retrieve anything from their eight-room house before it was consumed by the fire.

“The fire broke out in [Bhengu’s] bedroom. Everyone ran out of the house, including her. When everyone was standing outside the house watching it burn they realised that Alwande was [still in the house], sleeping in one of the bedrooms.

“[Bhengu] then went back into the burning house to try and rescue Alwande but they never made it back out of the house,” said a family member who did not want to be named.

Another family member said they are still investigating the cause of the fire.

He said he received a call just after midnight telling him that there was a fire at the home.

“After the fire broke out, firefighters were called and they [responded quickly] but they could not help us on time because of the state of our road.

“On their way to the house to extinguish the fire their cars got stuck as the road is slippery and muddy. They had to try and get the cars out and use another alternative road but, by the time they managed to do that, it was too late and the two people that were in the house had already burnt to death,” he said.

The family said they believe that if their road was in a good condition Bhengu and Alwande would have been saved from the fire.

“We are devastated; we are heartbroken, especially because we know that things could have turned out differently if we did not have poor service delivery,” he said.

When Echo visited the family on Monday there was still smoke in the house and community members were busy fetching water with buckets as they tried to assist the family.

Community members who spoke to Echo said they were shocked by the incident and they do not want anything like it to ever happen in their area again.

“This is the first time we’ve witnessed something like this. We are heartbroken and angry at the same time because if leadership had listened to us and fixed this road the people would still be alive. What makes us more angry is that the ward councillor knows about the state of this road.

“Not so long ago a woman died on this road while waiting for an ambulance. It could not access her house because of the road.

Paramedics had to leave the ambulance and walk [to her] but it was too late for her too,” said one community member.

The community also revealed that they would have tried to extinguish the fire with water but the their taps have been dry for over two years.

“When the fire broke out the community members came out to see. They tried to put out the fire with water that was stored in a water drum. There was even a hose pipe but it did not help because the taps are dry. We wanted to help the family but there is no water in this area,” said one resident.

Ward Councillor Thabiso Molefe said he is aware of the tragedy that took place and said that he is also aware that firefighters had a problem getting to the home due to the state of the road.

“We face the challenge of a road that was built about five months ago but never finished due to the budget.

“I have spoken to a municipal official to discuss the matter because now it is a matter of emergency. I have requested them to at least put [down] stone that will enable cars to go through,” he said.

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