A witness testifying at the Commission of Inquiry into the Marshalltown Building fire has told chairperson of the commission Justice Sisi Khampepe that one of the water tankers had no water while another tanker had half a supply of water.
On Monday, Siphamandla Sibiya said that on arrival the firefighters from the two tankers were unable to help the residents and never showed eagerness to help.
“They stood idle doing nothing for almost an hour and only started showing interest in their work once the sun was starting to come up.
“Other firefighters started to arrive and they then started to work. By then, the raging fire had caused considerable damage,” Sibiya said.
Sibiya said many lives would have been spared had the firefighters been prepared and fully equipped to do their jobs.
“In my opinion, had they been fully prepared and ready to work, many lives would have been saved.
“When I look at the time we wasted waiting for them and the time they took to start working, I believe this could have made a big difference and many of the lives we lost would have been spared.”
Sibiya said he and many other victims were yet to receive counselling more than five months since the fire.
“The fire has affected me a lot and we have not received any counselling and are forced to counsel ourselves as a result.
“In terms of having a place to stay, it has also affected me because I could not be with my children during the past school holidays.
“I have had to ask a friend of mine to share his space with me so I could be with my children,” he said.
Sibiya’s sentiments on the late arrival of firefighters were this past week echoed by another witness, Omari Hanya, who said firefighters arrived 45 minutes after the blaze and were without water.
“There were people who were calling them, and they came after 45 minutes, and when they got there, they did not even have water.
“They tried to connect the water, but they couldn’t find it. They came with no water, and they were taking water from the water pipe on the streets,” he said.
Another witness, Zabi Khumalo, told the commission that after he saw people dying from jumping out of their windows, he used a washing line to climb down from the 4th floor of the building after realising he would not be able to jump down from that position.
“So I could tell that I wasn’t going to be able to jump, so what I did, I took a bottle and I cut the washing line and I tied it on the steel bar and I used it to go down.
“I realised that if it was going to be untied, it would have reached the 2nd floor and by having been there perhaps I won’t die because the guy that jumped earlier had died.”
The commission continues on Tuesday with more witnesses set to take the stand.