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Durban - A South Durban woman is grateful to neighbours who helped save her two young children from their burning home, but is devastated that her mother, who was looking after them, died in the blaze.
“My mother had wrapped herself in a blanket thinking it would save her,” Zothani Khumalo told the Daily News on Sunday.
“Her charred remains will remain in my mind for ever.”
Reliving the horror incident at her home near Folweni, south of Durban, on Wednesday, Khumalo said a candle that tipped over might have caused the blaze.
The home in eMatendeni has pre-paid electricity but a storm had knocked out power for three days last week.
It has still not been restored.
Khumalo said she had left her mother, Kakiwe Khumalo, 52, to watch her children, Samkelo, 6 and Vuyani, 7, while she had gone to her sister’s house to fetch food.
While walking back she heard people shouting that the house was on fire.
“When I arrived I heard one of the children screaming through a window while the fire spread through the house.
“My other child is mute and on medication,” she said.
Neighbours tried to help, using buckets to throw water on the flames.
“The front door was not accessible because of the intense heat and flames so we had to break the windows to throw water inside.”
A neighbour climbed through one of the broken windows in a room at the back of the house where the children slept but he could only find Samkelo and climbed out with her. Khumalo said Vuyani had hidden under the bed.
“As a mother I could sense he was there. I looked through the window. The smoke was blinding me but I heard a whimper.
“I asked my neighbour to climb back in and check under the bed. Vuyani was exhausted and couldn’t move. He had inhaled too much smoke,” Khumalo said.
She said when the fire was eventually doused they did not know what to expect, knowing that her mother had not made it out alive from her room.
The sight horrified her, she said. The children were taken to Prince Mshiyeni Memorial hospital, treated for smoke inhalation and discharged a day later.
They will, however, miss the first week of the second school term, which starts today.
Khumalo said they could not salvage anything from the fire.
Important documents and the children’s school uniforms and stationery were destroyed.
She said her mother would be buried in Highflats near Ixopo this weekend.
After hearing that the Khumalos were struggling financially since the fire, Tracey Leigh Williams of the non-profit organisation, Wentworth Angels, stepped in to assist with food.
Williams is appealing to the public to open their hearts to help get the family back on their feet.
She can be contacted at 082 300 0926.