Durban - “Daddy is my hero,” said eight-year-old Moienodheen Suleman, a survivor of a horrific fire in Kharwastan, Chatsworth, that claimed the lives of six family members and their domestic worker.
“I was sleeping and then daddy woke me and he grabbed me… and then I saw fire. A big fire,” recalled the boy. “Daddy broke the window and then he helped me and my sister jump outside the house. Daddy is my hero.”
The boy was speaking soon after he and his family survived yesterday morning’s inferno at the Erica Avenue house, believed to have been caused by a gas cylinder.
Six family members, Mukaram Warsi, 45, his wife Zainub Ebrahim, 29, his mother-in-law Zarina Ebrahim, 55, their two daughters Taiba, 9, and Saiba, 4, and their 18-month-old son Rahaan perished in the blaze.
The family’s domestic worker Thokoza (whose surname is not yet known) also died.
The two families lived in the double-storey house. The house did not have electricity and the families used candles.
Neighbours said one of the reasons for the fire could be that services to the house had been cut off by the municipality for non-payment.
Ebrahim’s nephew, Ismal Hussain, said he last saw the family two weeks ago when his aunt returned from a trip to Pakistan. “They were struggling financially, but they were a very close-knit family.”
Warsi, a Pakistan national, and his family lived in the bottom part of the house with burglar guarded windows, while the Sulemans, who managed to escape unscathed, occupied the top part.
Recalling events which led to the deadly fire, Moienodheen’s father, Mohamedh Misal Suleman, said he was woken up by his frantic wife, Haistha, at about 3.30am after hearing an explosion.
He said he heard cries and screams for help from the family downstairs, but said there was little he could do as he was also trapped in the house. “Then I immediately broke the window,” he said. “My wife and kids were right there and I knew I had to do something.”
Suleman, who sprained his leg while saving his family, then proceeded to help his family jump to safety.
His wife said the children had calmed down and were back to their “normal bubbly nature” after the incident. “But I’m not good. I’m not good at all. I can still hear their cries,” she said before breaking down.
The Suleman family, who lost all their belongings in the blaze, were taken to the Aryan Benevolent Home, a non-profit organisation in Chatsworth that provides shelter and food for children, the elderly and physically and mentally disabled.
Laila Ramnarayan, a child and youth care practitioner at the home, said the family was still shaken. “The kids are more resilient and they’re playing with the other kids.”
Ramnarayan urged people to donate clothes and household goods to the family. “This family has to start all over again,” she said.
Police said yesterday the cause of the fire was unknown, but ANC provincial spokesman Bongani Tembe said it was believed a gas cylinder exploded in the house.
This could not be confirmed.
“We wish to express our heartfelt condolences to the relatives and friends of the victims,” said Tembe.
“We call on our comrades in the area, government, and neighbours to lend a helping hand to the friends and relatives of the deceased.”
Police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker said an inquest docket had been opened. A forensic team sifted through the debris.
Relatives and neighbours cried hysterically yesterday morning as a state mortuary vehicle removed the bodies from the house.
Funeral arrangements were still being made at the time of going to press.