Durban - A man who ran back into a burning mosque to save his daughter, died with her body cradled in his arms when he was trapped by burglar bars, it was revealed on Sunday.
Jafar Mtambo, 29, and his daughter, Rooksana, 1, died in the fire at the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) in Umlazi last Sunday.
Mtambo’s partner and Rooksana’s mother, Sindiswa Mchunu, was at work and was called to the mosque, but was not told why.
When she arrived she realised that Mtambo and Rooksana were not among those standing outside.
Rooksana is survived by her 8-year-old sister.
Khathwib Juma, an imam at the centre, told the Daily News on Sunday that Mtambo had been preparing breakfast for the children. Juma said that after Mtambo had finished, some women had used a two-plate gas stove to prepare a meal for a graduation ceremony.
Juma said the gas cylinder was leaking but the women using it did not notice.
They heard a hissing sound coming from the cylinder. They tried to turn it down, but eventually turned it up again because they thought it was normal, without even asking as they were using the gas for the first time,” Juma said.
Juma said at the time there were about 15 people in the room. He said immediately after they turned up the gas cylinder, flames from the stove connected to where it joined the gas cylinder.
“Fire then blew fast in huge flames and the gas cylinder was blown to the door where it blocked the doorway. Everyone managed to jump over the gas cylinder blocking the door before the fire engulfed the whole room and escaped,” Juma said.
Juma said Mtambo realised that his baby was left inside and went back in. The baby was in another room and he had to go through the flaming kitchen to get to Rooksana.
When he realised the fire was too hot to go back through, he locked himself and the baby in that room and tried to get out of the back window by breaking the glass, Juma said.
“But because it had burglar bars they could not escape.
“They were both burnt inside with his baby in his hands,” said Juma.
“It happened so fast.
“We tried to put out the fire with water using a hose pipe but it was like we were doing nothing,” he said.
The WAMY said the fire spread very quick destroying the entire kitchen, the orphanage and the ablution block.
“According to the fire inspector, the fire was caused by the unnoticed gas leakage.
“The fire brigade worked tirelessly to contain the fire which took almost four hours to extinguish,” read a statement issued by the WAMY.