Cape Town -
Neighbours tried in vain to rescue 4-year-old Yolanda Rigala who was trapped inside a burning shack in Wilhelmina Schaefer Street in Strand.
Fire broke out at about 4am on Sunday and swept through two backyard shacks, one of them occupied by Yolanda, her mother Thobeka Rigala and her 1-year-old sibling.
Fire and Rescue spokesmen said the fire was the result of a fallen candle.
Neighbours said the blaze was uncontrollable and had already destroyed the shack in which Yolanda had been sleeping with her family.
“We used everything we could find. The blaze prevented us from getting inside.
“After I woke up, I rushed outside and saw Thobeka at the door. She told me Yolanda was inside the shack. She was carrying her baby,” neighbour Thobela Kibido said yesterday.
He was among neighbours who tried to help save Yolanda.
“I don’t think there was anything else we could have done. We used everything to try and get inside, but it was too late.
“It is hard to accept the way she died. She was just a lovely child,” he said.
Yolanda attended a pre-school in Broadlands, Strand. She had been living in Strand for three months after arriving from the Eastern Cape.
Her mother, Thobeka, was too distraught to be interviewed on Monday.
Yolanda’s grandmother, Annelise Pampi, said the pain of their loss would last forever.
“She stayed with us most of the time and would only visit her mother during holidays. On Saturday, her mother came here and Yolanda wanted to leave with her. I told her she could not go with her mother, but she cried. I thought I should let her go because it was a weekend and she was not going to school the next day,” she said.
“She was happy when she left with her mother. She was a clever child.
“I was teaching her Afrikaans because our community is Afrikaans-speaking and she struggled to talk with the other children,” Pampi said.
“The way she died is hurtful.
“I still have her in my mind playing and dancing around the house. She was an active child who loved making jokes and having fun,” said Pampi.