Cape Town -

Carmen Thompson heard a loud bang in the early hours of the morning but when she looked out of the window of her 11th-storey flat in Goodwood, she saw nothing amiss.

When she opened her front door, however, she screamed as she felt the heat and smelt smoke.

The 20-storey Mark Heights was ablaze and all Thompson could think of was to get her nieces Kelly Clarke, 13, and Lorna August, nine, to safety.

The three were among more than 50 people who had to be evacuated from the block in Wallace Street on Saturday morning after a flat on the eighth floor was gutted, and several others damaged by the fire.

“It was a terrifying experience,” said Thompson, who said she had blisters under her feet from the heat of the floor.

Her brother, Marcellino Clarke, his wife Theresa, and their son Brent were also evacuated from the building. The family had been together to mourn the death of Thompson and Clarke’s mother Lorna Clark, who had died on Friday.

Melissa Jordaan, the girlfriend

of Sheldon Pretorius who lived in the gutted flat, said the hinges on the sliding door to his room had melted and the door had had to be kicked in to save him. Everyone in the worst-affected flat escaped unharmed.

“Nobody knows how the fire started, only that it started in a smallish room. Everything burnt out, nothing that could be saved in the flat. There’s just ash,” said Jordaan.

Sheldon and his relatives were staying with other family members and friends.

Cape Town Disaster Risk Management acting head Wilfred Solomons-Johannes said eight people were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, including three men and an infant.

Nine fire engines, firefighters, disaster management officials, police and paramedics attended the fire after being alterted at 3.22am yesterday.

Solomons-Johannes said the fire was quickly contained, and the building was declared safe again by 8am yesterday.

He confirmed that the cause of the fire was unknown.

Weekend Argus