Help me! I am burning!” came the screams of 10-year-old Awethu Mzenzela, trapped in her family’s burning shack in Wallacedene last week.
Awethu never made it out.
The fire that broke out in Nkani Street shortly before 7am on Wednesday February 27 took her life, destroyed nine shacks and left 12 families with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Residents were still cleaning up charred debris when Northern News visited the area last Friday.
According to Thembelani Mnto, Awethu’s family’s landlord, the fire began in the shack after the child prepared porridge on the stove top.
All 12 families were staying in the nine shacks in his backyard.
He said Awethu’s parents left the family’s one-bedroom shack at 5.45am daily to catch a taxi to work.
Awethu, her 16-year-old sister and her baby sister, aged 3, usually woke up at the same time to get ready for school and creche.
Mr Mnto said they appeared to have followed the same routine on the morning of the tragedy, with the 16-year-old washing the toddler and then taking her to creche before going to school herself.
Awethu would have been alone in the shack until around 7am before leaving for Wallacedene Primary School.
“She was making some porridge while washing herself in the next room, the pot burnt and was on fire. There was no one to get her out,” Mr Mnto said.