Mom, three kids die in house fire after electricity box allegedly explodes in Khayelitsha, Cape Town
A mother and three of her children, including a three-year-old, have died in a fire in Town Two Khayelitsha on Tuesday morning, 21 May 2019. The fire occurred in the family's RDP house after an electricity box exploded at about 4h00. City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Services spokesperson, Jermaine Carelse, said residents had called the fire service to the scene. The fire was put out at 5h20. "Three fire fighting appliances, a rescue vehicle and 14 staff members were dispatched to the incident," Carelse said. Carelse confirmed the four fatalities and that one person was in hospital. "The cause of the fire is unconfirmed," Carelse said.
One person is fighting for his life at Tygerberg Hospital, said family members. The names of the four deceased are Twayisa Myathaza, aged 36, and her children Lindokuhle, aged 15, Nandile, aged 14 and Linamandla, aged three.
Neliswa Magwala said she received a telephone call informing that her cousin’s house was burning. She went to the house to investigate. "When I arrived, the residents had already put out the fire and the kids’ bodies were lying on the floor behind their mother’s body," she said. "It appeared as if they followed her from the room in which they were sleeping and collapsed beside her." Magwala said she was battling to come to terms with the death of her family members. "It's horrifying to see four dead bodies. I have not yet recovered from the shock."
Another relative, Thobela Maqungo, survived after residents saved him from the fire, she said.
Magwala said, "He has survived but he will have no place to stay after he has recovered from the burn wounds and gets discharged from the hospital." Maqungo lives on a disability grant and walks with the aid of crutches following a car accident a few years ago, she said. "He doesn’t have money to rebuild the house, so we would be grateful if the City of Cape Town could help."
The family would put their heads together and discuss how to bury their family members, she said. "We all don’t work, so no one has money to bury the deceased."
Limise Plaatjie, a cousin, said Twayisa Myathaza had left behind a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old who live in Zwelitsha informal settlement, Khayelitsha, and Kroonstad. "My daughter was born in the same year as her 15-year-old daughter, and I treated them as twins. Because they love each so much, I don’t how I will tell her that her twin sister has died in a fire," she said.
It was the second time the electricity box had exploded and caused fire in the house, she said. "On 22 April 2019, Twayisa sent me a text message saying that she and her kids had narrowly escaped a fiery death after the electricity box went off and burned electrical wires and a chair inside her house," said Plaatjie.
Eyewitnesses said they heard an explosion and screams. "Twayisa screamed inside the house before the fire overwhelmed her while her backyarder also screamed for help outside," said neighbour Noludwe Madikane. She said she would remember Twayisa and her 15-year-old daughter Lindokuhle fondly.
"Twayisa and I used to help each other. If she had no sugar, she would ask me for it, and I would do the same for her," said Madikane. She said Twayisa worked hard and did part-time jobs in the township to ensure that she put food on the table for her children.
Madikane said Twayisa depended on her kids’ social grant and occasionally augmented it by working for Tshisa-nyama (meat braaier) owners to feed and clothe her kids. "I loved Lindokuhle because she was a well-mannered and obedient kid who never resisted when we sent her on errands." She said the 15-year-old "loved to stay indoors and read her schoolbooks".
Siphiwo Sipili said the fire was already "too strong" when neighbours and other residents arrived at the house. "We could not put out the fire as it was already out of control," he said. Sipili described how he rescued Maqungo from the deadly blaze. "He stuck his head through the burglar window and screamed for help as the fire burned his legs, bum and back before I and other residents pulled him out," he said. Sipili said, "He cried uncontrollably even after we saved him. I'm still shocked."