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Four people, including two children, died in a fire that razed a shack in Crossroads in Nyanga early on Friday.
This is the second fatal fire in Nyanga in 24 hours. On Thursday, Sivile Ngesi, 36, also died in a fire in the area.
Wilfred Solomons-Johannes, spokesman for the City of Cape Town’s disaster management centre confirmed that three people had died in Friday’s fire. He identified them as Noxolo Nyakaza, 33, her three-year-old daughter Akana and another unnamed three-year-old girl who was visiting from Khayelitsha.
However, Nokwanda Mtiya, who lives in the shack next to Nyakana’s, said another woman named Phumela had died in the fire. “She was visiting from Khayelitsha with her daughter… but I don’t know the child’s name,” Mtiya added.
Mtiya said when she opened her door the air was still smoke-filled.
She had been woken by screaming and when she went outside all she could see was flames.
Jackson Gqiga, one of the neighbours who helped to put out the fire, said it had started shortly after 2am. “I saw flames coming out the windows and we helped to put the fire out using buckets and hosepipes.”
Peter Moyosvi, owner of the property where Nyakana was a backyarder, said he was also woken by screaming and when he got outside it was too late. “The fire was already too big.”
Moyosvi said Nyakana had been living on his property for about two years and she was a “good person who kept to herself”.
Solomons-Johannes said the cause of the fire was unknown. Nyanga police had opened an inquest docket.
Fires in informal settlements in winter pose a big problem because people tend to take their fires indoors, said Cape Town Disaster Management spokeswoman Charlotte Powell.
“There are a number of factors involved. People buy non-approved, unsafe paraffin stoves because they are cheaper, for example. These are often dangerous and not SABS-approved, but because they’re available at the spaza shops... poor people buy them as their cheapest option.”
Paraffin was commonly used to cook and to heat. If a paraffin stove or heater was knocked over, the paraffin would run out, spread and catch fire.
“There is no legislation that allows the authorities to prevent the sale of unsafe stoves or other equipment.
This, coupled with the fact that informal houses in Cape Town were mostly built of highly flammable materials, made for a lethal mix, Powell added.