LUCKY TO BE ALIVE: Johanna Matswi surveys the charred remains of her home that burnt down in Dobsonville. Neighbours probably saved her and her familys lives.	Picture: Dumisani Dube
LUCKY TO BE ALIVE: Johanna Matswi surveys the charred remains of her home that burnt down in Dobsonville. Neighbours probably saved her and her familys lives. Picture: Dumisani Dube

Vuvuzelas save 3 lives

By Time of article published Sep 14, 2011

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LEBOGANG SEALE

A SOWETO family believe the sound of vuvuzelas blown by their neighbours saved them from death when their house caught alight.

Yesterday, while the Dobsonville Extension 1 family counted their losses, they blamed the Joburg Emergency Management Services (EMS) for not responding to their frantic calls for help.

Johanna Matswi, 59, said she was asleep with her daughter Thelma, 21, and her three-month-old baby at about 5am yesterday when they were awoken by the sound of blaring vuvuzelas, loud screams and the crackling sound of fire.

“People were screaming ‘Fire! fire! Get out, you are dying!’ I thought it was a house next door. Before I could wake up, I heard the crackling sound of fire coming from the garage,” said Matswi.

Terrified, she and Thelma, who was carrying her baby, became hysterical when they could not immediately see the key to the open the door.

Adding to their fears was that the burglar doors, after they had located the keys, would not open.

“My daughter suggested that we get out through the trapdoor in the ceiling. I told her it would be difficult because we didn’t have a stepladder,” Matswi said.

Eventually, neighbours pushed open the door to set them free from the raging blaze. While some neighbours used buckets and hosepipes to douse the flames, others pushed the three cars that were parked in the yard into the street.

And by the time they managed to extinguish the fire, part of the roof had already collapsed.

According to Matswi and her neighbours, it took more than three hours to douse the blaze.

“More than 90 percent of our furniture was burnt. And all our groceries were damaged. We also lost our certificates and memorabilia like photos,” said Marcia, Matswi’s other daughter, who had travelled from her workplace in Phokeng, Rustenburg.

Matswi and Thelma were so traumatised that they were taken to hospital for counselling. “We are lucky to be alive. My heart is still beating fast,” she said.

The family blamed the EMS for not responding.

“One of my neighbours phoned them, but he was told that they could not come because they were on strike,” Matswi said.

“So just because they are on strike means the municipality can’t do anything to save people when their lives are in danger?” asked a neighbour, who did not want to be identified.

EMS spokeswoman Nana Radebe said the incident was being investigated.

“According to the station, the caller phoned the station directly – not the control centre… They were not sure about the extension (area)… Community members are urged to use the control centre as calls are recorded and we are able to trace them,” said Radebe.

The EMS emergency number is 10177 and the cellphone number is 112.

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