Mother saves kids from shack fire

ct Shacks burn down, Lavender Hill 4403 Courtney Africa SALVAGE OPERATION: Charmaine Maree and Frank Williams recover what they can after a shack fire in Lavender Hill destroyed 12 shacks and left 50 people destitute yesterday. Photo: Courtney Africa

Siyavuya Mzantsi

A LAVENDER Hill mother put her life on the line to save her four children – including her eight-month-old son – when the family’s shack went up in flames yesterday.

Johanna Blaauw, 35, said she was woken by the screams of her eight-year-old daughter at about 3am, and by the time she rushed to open the shack’s door, their Village 3 dwelling was filled with smoke.

“When I tried to reach for the key it was not there in the door. I broke the window with my fist,” she recalled.

“The only thing that came into my mind was my children. I first threw my eight-year-old daughter out of the window so that she could help while I was trying to rescue the other children who were inside.

“I then threw the youngest child, the eight-month-old boy, out of the window. The fire became worse, but I managed to save the other two. One is four years and the other is seven,” said Blaauw.

ct Shacks burn down, Lavender Hill 4438 JOHANNA BLAAUW Courtney Africa

All her belongings were burnt. The fire destroyed 11 other shacks and left 50 people homeless.

“My worry was my children. I was the last person to get out of the fire. My neighbours tried to assist, but it was too late because everything was completely destroyed. I am not too worried about the belongings, but I am happy because my kids are safe and unharmed,” she said.

Blaauw and other victims had lived in the area for four years.

Her actions were similar to those of Elizabeth Barrett, 68, who was hailed as a hero after she saved 14 children from a fire in Harrington Street in Cape Town in December.

Leeroy Fisher was among the first to alert other residents to the fire.

“I first woke up the rest of my family at about 3am. I first heard sounds which I thought were like gun shots. Later, there was smoke. I tried using water but the blaze was too much for me. I even threw sand on the fire but it did not help. We managed to save a couple of our belongings,” Fisher said.

When the Cape Times visited Lavender Hill yesterday, some of the destitute families were clearing the site to rebuild their homes, while others were retrieving what was left of their belongings.

They were given building materials by the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Management unit. It is unclear how the fire started.

Meanwhile, a 26-year-old man died during a shack fire in the KTC informal settlement near Nyanga on Saturday.

“The man was sleeping alone in a shack when it caught fire at about 5am on Saturday. He succumbed in the fire. Five shacks were also destroyed in this fire,” police spokesman FC Van Wyk said yesterday.

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