“HE died asking about his children who were burning inside the house.”
These were the words of an emotional Linda Fayilane, a neighbour who witnessed five of his neighbours die in a house fire in the early hours of Sunday in Imbali Unit BB.
It is suspected that the family’s two plate stove may have started the fire after it was left on Saturday night.
Zamokuhle Hadebe, Zanele Mdunge, her two children Phila (5) and Mnqobi (3), and niece Ntombi (9) were all inside when the fire started, unable to escape.
Speaking to Echo, Fayilane,said he tried to help the family escape the blaze after he was told by his brother that there was a fire at Hadebe’s homestead at around 12 am on Sunday.
“I had to rush there with hardly any clothes on because there was no time to get dressed.
“When I arrived there were already women who are community members but they did not know what to do to save the family. The fire was too much and there was no smoke, just fire.
“When I arrived, they were all still alive but they were burning inside the house. The door was locked but I could see their father next to it, trying to open it. The children were crying, asking for help.
“I kicked the door a couple of times, trying to open it, but I failed. I saw that the father was losing energy and he collapsed inside. I had to break the door after kicking it so many times.
“I tried to rescue the father by pulling him out of the house but his skin was [getting] pulled [off] as he was severely burnt . I tried to pull him out using the clothes he was wearing but the same thing happened.
“I asked the community members to give me a wet blanket so that I can use it to save him. I put the wet blanket around him and pulled him outside the house. When he got out, he just collapsed. He was still crying, asking about his children who were still screaming for help inside until he died,” said Fayilane, who was fought back tears as he spoke to Echo.
After he managed to take the father out of the house, Fayilane tried to enter the house once again to save the mother and the children but community members stopped him because the fire was out of control.
He said the fire is said to have started at around 11 pm on Saturday but the fire department only arrived around 1 am.
“I wanted to go inside and save them all but I failed. I never thought that I would witness such a tragic incident. I will never forget what I saw. It was the most painful and traumatic experience that I have ever come across [in] my whole life.
“Hearing those children crying, knowing that there was nothing I could do to save them, will haunt me forever. Maybe if we were notified of the fire earlier there might have been something that I could have done to save the whole family,” he said.
Winile Shange, known as “makaMpilo”, a neighbour and a family friend, told Echo that she did not believe what she saw on Sunday.
She said she was attending a vigil when she was told that Hadebe’s homestead was on fire.
“I had to witness their burnt bodies being taken out of the house. We could not even recognise them.
“I will never forget what I saw. Maybe, if I was around, I would have noticed the fire sooner because I am their closest neighbour.
“When I left on Saturday morning, Zanele promised to visit me today [Sunday] and but I did not know that it would be the last time that I saw her alive,” she said.
She said Ntombi, who was the elder child, was visiting from Tamboville. for the long weekend.
Ward councillor Thamsanqa Sithole said he was saddened by this incident.
He said he received news of the tragedy at around 1 am on Sunday.
“We will try by all means to help those who are affected by offering them counselling because what they saw was very traumatic.
“We are still shocked about this incident but we will work together as a community to get through this,” he said.
The cause of the fire is still being investigated.