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Fire claims family, 10 homes

“My kids! My kids!”

These were the desperate cries heard by helpless onlookers as a family burnt to death in their Witsand home on Sunday morning, 14 June.

The fire claimed the lives of the couple Kute Mlungiseni and Andiswe Mfolo and three of their four children, Ambesiwe (11), Phelokazi (5), and Ntsika Mfolo (8 months). It also left another 10 families of the area destitute.

According to neighbour Rexon Valapi, the couple’s eldest child was sleeping at a friend’s house. He said he would be forever haunted by the screams of the children. “I felt helpless, and am disappointed that all we could do was look on,” he said.

The neighbours were uncertain about how and where the fire had begun.

“Everything happened so quickly, within 10 minutes all the shacks were burning,” Valapi said.

Other neighbours told Weskus Nuus it sounded as if the couple, although trapped inside, were trying to get their children to safety. “The flames were unfortunately too strong for any of us to do anything,” one said. “We couldn’t even grab any of our own personal belongings.”

“Everyone was sleeping and one person ran to try and find help,” Valapi recalled.

ANC councillor Nolefefe Mbombo said the fire occurred between 01:00 and 02:00 on Sunday morning.

She said on Sunday afternoon the remains of the deceased were still among the ruins. “Residents had to walk over the family’s remains to see if they could salvage anything,” Mbombo said. “And this is causing them more emotional distress.” She said the remains were left on the scene by forensic pathologists, and she had contacted local police for assistance.

“The cold weather definitely played a part in the cause of the fire,” Mbombo said, “and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that someone had left a stove on trying to create some heat.”

The surviving child, an orphaned 16-year-old, was visibly distraught and is now in the care of social workers.

Sub-council 1 chairperson Nora Grose said she contacted the City’s Disaster Management division to assist residents with relief packages, and councillors will assist with food, clothes and blankets.

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