Two children die in IY shack fire

Two children died in a shack fire on Saturday. Picture: Karen Watkins

A shack fire in Imizamo Yethu on Saturday that claimed the lives of two girls, aged 2 and 7, has left trauma and misery in its wake.

The fire department was alerted shortly before 4pm, and crews from Hout Bay, Lakeside and Ottery extinguished the blaze by 5.30pm, according to City Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Jermaine Carelse.

The fire destroyed three shacks, and firefighters found the children’s bodies under the debris, said Mr Carelse.

It’s not known what caused the fire in the upper end of the township known as Dontse Yakhe.

Hout Bay police station commander Lieutenant Colonel Jerome Syster was at the scene and said the Malawian mother of the children was too traumatised to provide details about the fire. He said she had been sleeping at the time.

When the Sentinel visited the area on Tuesday, we found the gutted remains of what had once been two double-storey shacks that were home to eight families, according to Thula Thula Hout Bay, a non-profit, which is registering fire victims for aid. It said two adults had been hospitalised.

Also bearing mute testament to the fury of the blaze and the despair left in its wake were a melted plastic bin, burnt mattress springs, a child’s shoe, charred magazines and soot-blackened metal sheets.

Above the shacks, which are pressed together among puddles of foul water and mud, a crazed tangle of electrical wiring dangled hazardously from a wooden pole. The air smelt of paraffin and drying laundry.

Hout Bay resident Bradley Witte said his employee, Chims Funsani, had lost everything but the clothes on his back in the fire.

“He lost all his personal possessions, documents and household items in the fire. He also lost his savings and supplies he had been gathering together as he had planned to send his wife home to Malawi and their children,” said Mr Witte.

He said three children had been trapped in a shack and Mr Funsani had managed to pull one of them to safety but not the other two.

Mr Witte said he was now helping Mr Funsani get back on his feet and organise basic living essentials.

We tried to speak to Mr Funsani, but Mr Witte said he was too traumatised and was having counselling.

Ward councillor Roberto Quintas said: “My heart goes out to the family who have experienced loss. My door is always open to assist with funeral requirements for minors, and my thoughts and prayers are with those left behind.”

If you can help, contact Thula Thula Hout Bay at or call 066 435 3443, or 082 325 7250.

The burnt shacks closely packed in the Dontse Yakhe area of Imizamo Yethu. Picture: Karen Watkins
A melted rubbish bin near the gutted remains of two double-storey shacks. Picture: Karen Watkins
A pole topped with a tangle of electrical cables above the burnt shacks. Picture: Karen Watkins
A blackened child’s shoe among the charred remains of the shack fire. Picture: Karen Watkins
The double-storey shacks were once home to eight families, according to a non-profit organisation helping the victims of the fire. Picture: Karen Watkins