ELMA NYAKENA knew her children were in danger in the shack with their gogo – the shack where the flames were raging out of control.
“I tried to throw myself into the fire but residents stopped me,” said the shattered mother.
‘I heard my children screaming, ‘help, grandmother, we are burning’, she said!
Elma (32) from Wesbank in Cape Town said her children always loved to sleep with their gogo.
On Friday night 1 July, they slept in gogo’s backyard shack while the mother slept in the main house.
In the early hours of Saturday morning, Elma and other residents woke up to the noise of people shouting that the shack was on fire.
Elma saw that the fire was eating the shack which her mother and her kids were sleeping in.
A brave neighbour managed to rescue the grandmother but when he tried to go back for the children the flames were too strong. He was taken to hospital with serious burns.
Leana (9), Luciana (4) and Bruce, who would have turned one-year-old next Friday, died inside the shack.
A total of eight shacks caught fire when the incident happened.
People said if it wasn’t for resident, Derrick Van Wyk, the gogo would have died as well.
“He was so brave but he could not save everyone,” said resident Ilze Rondganger.
When the SunTeam arrived in the area, the gogo had been taken to relatives’ place as she was traumatised.
Resident Letticia Mgxebe said: she woke up to screams and noises as people were running around to extinguish the fire. “If it wasn’t for the noise I could also have died inside my shack. We don’t know what caused the fire but there was no electricity.”
Ward 21 councillor Ebrahim Sawant visited the family on Saturday.
“This is a tragedy. Three children have been lost,” he said.
He said they made plans to give those who are left homeless a place to sleep.
Fire and Rescue spokesman Jermaine Carelse confirmed the incident. “Three children, aged almost one, four and nine, died in a fire in Wesbank, Cape Town, on Saturday.
“The city’s Fire and Rescue Service was alerted at 2.15am that there was a home on fire,” said Carelse.
But he said firefighters found several houses burning and managed to put out the fire just before 4am.
“A total of 24 firefighters managed to contain and extinguish the blaze just before 4am.
“During firefighting operations, the bodies of the children were discovered in one of the informal structures,” said Carelse.