Cape Town 141209. Shoes of two children who died in a shack fire in Philipi are still at the scene. The mother of ther children was admitted to the hospital last night. Picture Cindy Waxa.Reporter Chelsea

Cape Town - Two little girls burnt to death after they were trapped inside their burning shack early on Tuesday morning.

Lithabo, 2, and Kwakhanya, 5, were fast asleep in their Philippi East home when the fire broke out.

Their mother, Vuyokazi Gcilitshane, managed to escape. She ran for help, screaming: “The children are inside.”

Gcilitshane was taken to hospital with burns, according to City of Cape Town fire chief Theo Layne.

Her neighbour, Douglas Gungqisa, was home on Tuesday morning to recount the horrifying night.

Gungqisa owns the formal house and property on which the backyard shack was built. The Gcilitshane family had lived there since last year.

“I was woken at 1am by a woman who came running to tell me the shack is on fire,” he said. “I jumped up and ran. I was so confused. Then we went to fetch water in buckets to throw on the fire.”

Gungqisa said the blaze only grew as they poured water over it, as if the water was paraffin.

“I heard the screams of the mother saying the children are in there,” he said. “The mother couldn’t say what caused the fire, she was just crying. All she could say was ‘the children are inside’.”

Soon community members came to help, and a security van called the fire brigade.

When the neighbours managed to put out the flames, they set about searching for the girls.

“We didn’t hear the screams of the children,” Gungqisa said. “It was just quiet.”

He found their charred bodies under a sheet of collapsed corrugated sheeting.

On Tuesday morning, the blackened site was home only to twisted metal, burnt plates and the soggy remains of a tiny girls’ T-shirts and pink shoes.

Gungqisa’s house in Apile Crescent was slightly damaged by smoke, but not burnt.

Layne said that a man had died in a separate fire last night. “There was also a fire in Kosovo informal settlement. One adult male sustained fatal burns.”

The cause of both fires was not known and details were unclear as formal reports had not yet been filed on Tuesday morning.

Cape Argus