'I threw my baby out like a dog' to save her - Khayelitsha mother on devastating blaze

2018-10-22 07:28
Nofikile Jeyi sits where her home once stood. (Maxine Becket, News24)

Nofikile Jeyi sits where her home once stood. (Maxine Becket, News24)

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When residents of Khayelitsha were woken up by screams of "Fire!" on Saturday morning, many of them scrambled to salvage the little they had, but were unable to do so.

The fire spread rapidly across the informal settlement with a strong wind fuelling its flames.

Sindiswa Mdikidiki said she thought the fire was far from where her now non-existent home was.

"I tried to get everything. I threw my baby out like a dog [to get her out of the fumes and fire]. I couldn't get to everything," Mdikidiki said.

"The fire made me confused, I'm still confused by what happened."

No answers

Her teenage daughter has been asking questions that Mdikidiki says she has no answers to. Mdikidiki doesn't know how her daughter will study for the upcoming exams - her school books are all gone.

The City of Cape Town on Sunday that more than 300 homes were affected in the blaze, while 1 300 people were now homeless.

Read more here: More than 1 300 homeless after Khayelitsha blaze

Many of those affected are left with only the clothes on their backs and hope that tomorrow will bring comfort.

Another man says he was awoken by shouts, was caught off guard and ran outside naked.

"I heard people screaming 'Fire', I don't know what happened. I ran outside naked and back in to phone the fire brigade," he said.

The race against the fire was being lost and some were forced to watch their belongings disappear in the raging fire.

Sylvia Kanzi was not home when the fire swept through her home. She was alerted by her neighbours about the fire.

"I was shocked when I saw what was happening. I tried to save some things but I lost everything.

"It's a fire, I can't be angry at anybody, this could happen to anyone," Kanzi said.

Residents clearing up the remains of their homes.
Residents clearing up the remains of their homes. (Maxine Becket, News24)

On Sunday, demarcating and digging seemed futile as the wind blew away residents' efforts to start rebuilding.

A few people were attempting to dig trenches but it was quickly filled with sand blown by the gusts, by afternoon many had given up and opted to converse with each other.

Nofikile Jeyi, 68, who suffers from asthma and heart complications sat by herself, her crutch resting on her leg.

"I'm saddened sitting here in this open field with all this wind blowing.

"I've been coughing throughout the ordeal, even now, my chest is still painful," Jeyi said.

She had not eaten for the day.

"Right now they are salvaging damaged material for me for further use," she added.

Residents clearing up the remains of their homes.
Children collect rubble in Khayelitsha. (Maxine Becket, News24)

Many had nowhere to sleep for the night and have made use of the hall to lay their heads down. Others are staying with friends and relatives. Luyanda Dashe has used the time to mark a piece of land for himself.

"The children aren't safe where I stay and the house is too small," Dashe says as he relentlessly digs into the soft sand.

One person died in the blaze and hundreds are left homeless.

Relief efforts have been arranged.

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Read more on:    cape town  |  housing  |  fires  |  service delivery

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