Baby's tiny body after Hout Bay fire was 'as small as loaf of bread' – witness

Oscar Mhone clears the site where his shack once stood. (Tammy Petersen, News24)
Oscar Mhone clears the site where his shack once stood. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

The little body Ben Bini saw after a fire ripped through Mandela Park on Monday was as small as a loaf of bread.

"I saw what was left of the child. It was too much for me," he told News24, shaking his head.

More than 15 shacks were destroyed in a blaze that broke out in the Hout Bay settlement before midday on Monday.

According to the City of Cape Town's fire services spokesperson, Theo Layne, four fire engines, four water tankers and a rescue vehicle with 30 firefighters responded to the inferno.

A 6-month-old baby died in the fire.

Western Cape police on Tuesday confirmed an inquest docket into the Molokwane Street fire that resulted in the baby's death had been opened 

Rain a blessing

Bini had been at his home higher up the mountain on which the settlement is built when he noticed the smoke coming from a cluster of shacks.

"I ran down and we grabbed buckets. We went to collect water from a tap at the tavern and poured it over the flames. We tried our best to save the people's homes and stop the fire from spreading," he said.

Lovers Magwala said the rain brought by a cold front that has had the Cape in its grip since the weekend was a blessing, as a downpour helped extinguish the flames.

Both he and Bini saw the body after the fire had been doused. They had not been aware that the child was in the shack or they would have tried to save the little one, they say.

The child's mother had not been home when News24 visited on Tuesday. Locals said they had not seen her since the fire.

On Tuesday, households destroyed by the fire had not yet been rebuilt as the shack dwellers waited to receive starter kits from council.

'Everything was gone'

Many had started cleaning the ground on which their shacks had stood.

Nelson Kamanga had been at a local shopping centre when he saw smoke coming from the mountainside.

"When I got here, there was nothing left. Everything, everything was gone. My bed, our fridge, our clothes, our food. Wow. I don't even have words," he said, taking a break from removing soot and debris from his small plot.

These tiles are all that is left of Nelson Kamanga's shack which he shared with his brother, Gift. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

White tiles that had formed part of his shack's floor are all that remains of the home he shared with his brother, Gift.

"We have lived here for two years. Now this is all that shows that we were here, that this was our house."

Kamanga spent Monday night at a local community hall that had been made available to shelter the fire victims.

Woman burnt to death

Proportional representative councillor Bheki Hadebe said starter kits to allow the affected families to rebuild would be delivered on Tuesday.

In a separate incident in the early hours of Tuesday morning, a woman was burnt to death in a fire in Manenberg.

Layne said fire and rescue services responded to a fire at 120c Irvine Street at 01:00.

"Four informal structures at the rear of the formal dwelling were destroyed by fire and the adjacent house sustained damage. Fourteen people were displaced," he said.

It took just under an hour and a half for firefighters to extinguish the fire.

The cause had not yet been determined and police are investigating.

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