Residents say Maruwaan Thompson, 29, struggled to escape the flames and was stuck inside his burning shack near Rylands.
More than 100 people have been left homeless after the blaze that raged on for six hours.
According to a report from Fire and Rescue Services spokesperson, Theo Layne, firefighters were called in shortly after 2am when several shacks were on fire.
“The blaze was extinguished at 7:30am and a cause has not yet been determined. There were 52 dwellings destroyed and 127 people displaced.”
Maruwaan’s burnt body was removed from his shack by forensic services shortly after 10am. His bereaved girlfriend, Leonie Fillies, says they lived with their son, Waylen, in the settlement for two years.
“Ek wietie wat gebeur het nie. (I don't know what happened.) We just saw the flames and I ran out with my child. Maruwaan could not get out,” she explains.
The young mother adds: “Waylen is net een jaar oud, nou het hy nie ’* pa nie. (Waylen is just one-year-old, now he doesn't have a father.)”
Layne says it is unclear whether or not the fire started in the family’s shack.
Maruwaan’s sister, Camela Brandt, says the Thompson family lives in Valhalla Park and rushed to Athlone after hearing the news.
“His whole body was burnt up, jy kon net sy gesig sien (you could just see his face). People say he was stuck in the shack and was shouting for help, but they couldn’t save him.”
Resident Ester Persens says she and her family escaped the blaze with the clothes on their backs and their personal documents.
“I heard a kadwa! and thought they were shooting, but then I saw the fire. My husband, children and myself had to run with just the clothes we had on, but I got a bag with our IDs and so on out,” she says.
When the Daily Voice visited the informal settlement, many residents could be seen trying to salvage what they could from the debris.
Area Central Mayco member, Siyabulela Mamkeli, explained City trucks were working “extra fast” to remove the debris so residents could start rebuilding before nightfall.
“At this stage all services are activated and we are worried about rain. We will see if we can create a few small passages to make the area safer to prevent fires from spreading so fast,” he said.
Camela says they are devastated by her only sibling’s death.
“Ons is devastated en hartseer, hy was my enigste broer en ek het nie susters nie. (We are devastated and heartbroken, he was my only brother and I don't have sisters.) Now we are waiting to hear when we can get the body to start arranging the funeral,” she says.