Blaze kills family of five

2018-09-25 14:58
Mandla Hadebe stands  outside  the house that was gutted  by the fire that claimed the life of  his son and four other people.

Mandla Hadebe stands outside the house that was gutted by the fire that claimed the life of his son and four other people. (Nokuthula Khanyile)

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Distraught neighbours on Monday described their anguish at not being able to save a family of five from a fiery death.  Two hero neighbours who entered the burning house to try and save the family, on Monday said they felt helpless that they had got there just too late.

It is unknown what caused the fire that killed a family of five in their Imbali home on Sunday.

Zamokuhle Hadebe (43) and his girlfriend Zandile Mdunge, (42), her two children, Philasande (5), three-year-old Mnqobi and niece Ntombi (9) were all in the four-roomed house when it caught alight.

When The Witness visited the scene on Monday, the house was abandoned, with traumatised neighbours chatting among themselves nearby. A window, through which they had tried to gain entry into the house to rescue the stricken family, was shattered.

Burned remnants of a living room and a kitchen could be seen. The stench of smoke and charred wood filled the air. The Witness saw what appeared to be human remains tucked under a bucket. Relatives said they feared stray dogs would scavenge the remains.

They said forensic investigators were expected to visit the home again on Tuesday to scout for more human remains and begin the investigations.

A traumatised neighbour, who asked to remain unnamed, said the fire started around midnight. He said he was awoken by a loud bang. “I thought it was a gunshot. My girlfriend peeked through the window to see what was happening and she told me that our neighbour’s house was on fire.”

He said the blaze had already engulfed the home. “I ran out and jumped into the yard to try open the door.

“I could see Zamo through the window next to the door. He was screaming and in flames. He then fell face down on the floor.”

The neighbour said after opening the door, he struggled to pull Hadebe out as he was severely burnt.

Hadebe died a few minutes after being rescued from the house.

The neighbour said the aftermath was as confusing as it was gruesome.

“He was bloody and unconscious ...

“It was gruesome. It was surreal.”

“These people were gone,” he said. “I’m in shock. I couldn’t stay there ...”

Mdunge and the three children were found in the corner on the bed covered under heaps of clothing.

“We think they were trying to protect themselves from the fire with the clothes hoping that the fire would be put out before it got to them. But the layers of clothing burnt with them,” their tearful neighbour said. “You could not even recognise them.”

Linda Fayelani, who was also one of the first people at the scene, said he desperately tried to get the mother and three children out, but the fire was too much and he could not get past it.

According to Fayelani while they were busy with attempts to get Hadebe out, they could hear the children screaming inside. “They were screaming and shouting, asking for Zamo to come and get them, and then they stopped. The blaze was too much and we couldn’t get in,” he said.

A close family friend, Winnie Shange, said she was horror-struck.

“The police had to use a stick to find the children’s remains. The children’s bodies were burnt to ashes,” said a distraught Shange.

Zamo’s father Mandla Hadebe said the family had suffered a double blow after burying Zamo’s aunt on Sunday.

“We held a night vigil for my sister on Saturday and my son was there. He was supposed to come back on Sunday morning to bury his aunt and now this happened.”

Mandla revealed that Hadebe’s mother had fainted after being informed of the incident. “It’s difficult for the whole family. We know that death is inevitable but no one deserves such a painful death,” he said.

Hadebe was a barber at the Capital Centre on Langalibalele Street.

Police have opened an inquest docket.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  fire

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