Fire fighters fight a fire at Rhodes Memorial. March 17 2009 Photo by Michael Walker

Woodstock - Two children burnt to death when a double-storey Woodstock house went up in flames on Thursday night.

The victims were named as Tyrease Roberts, seven, and Tyrell Roberts, two.

The fire, which started at about 10pm, was described by Theo Layne, chief of the City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue services, as “very intense.”

“The evidence suggests that it started spontaneously [possibly due to an electrical fault] and spread very quickly,” he said.

This was supported by an eyewitness account.

Deon Roberts, uncle of the deceased children, was in an upstairs room when he was alerted to the fire by a scream from downstairs.

“I wanted to run downstairs to see what was happening, but by that time the smoke was already coming up. I could see flames, so I decided it was better for me to turn around. I escaped from the top storey on to the roof of our neighbours’ house and then into the street,” he said.

Roberts said his sister, the mother of the two children, was distraught.

She and other family members had been relocated to a relative’s house nearby. A priest had been called to provide counselling for the family.

Layne said that from interviews conducted by his staff it seemed the children had been with one of their parents in a bathroom when the fire broke out. The fire apparently started in an unoccupied room next to the bathroom.

“The details of what happens next are sketchy,” said Layne.

“The parent was separated from the children. I suspect that the fire developed… in the interim, and the kids could not be reached in the bathroom again. We have had reports that some residents tried to break a hole through the single brick interior wall of the bathroom before abandoning these efforts and vacating the house.” - Cape Argus