Help is pouring in for the bereft Abrahams family of Eastridge who tragically lost eight family members in a fire at their Macbeth Street home on Saturday morning, June 11.
Four people perished in the fire and another four died in hospital, with the youngest victims only two and three years old. Five family members were admitted to hospital with one discharged later.
Provincial police communications officer, Lieutenant Colonel André Traut, said SAPS forensic fire experts confirmed on Monday that the cause of the fire was electrical. “No foul play is suspected,” Lieutenant Colonel Traut said.
Speaking to the Plainsman on the scene, homeowner Patrick Abrahams, 54, who lost his three youngest children, Kyle, 18, Joshua, 13, and their sister Nikita, 3, as well as his three grandchildren Tamia Swartz, 2, Cameron Abrahams, 6, and Elmarie Abrahams, 5, in the blaze, said the fire started in the morning. “I was sleeping. I heard my neighbours shouting ‘fire, fire’. I woke up and ran outside. I didn’t have a chance to come back to rescue my children because the house was already engulfed by the fire,” said a distraught Mr Abrahams.
The others who died in the fire were Arafat Madatt, 14, who has been buried in accordance with Muslim rites, and Alfonso Swartz, 35.
Mr Abrahams’ ex-wife Verona, 52, and his daughters Shanice, 22, and Gloria, 31, who is pregnant, survived the tragedy.
A family friend, Nawaal Erasmus, 23, and Lance Minnies, 16, are also being treated in hospital. Gloria lost her children Tamia, Cameron and Elmarie, and her boyfriend Alfonso in the fire.
Mr Abrahams said his concern is how he is going to bury his family. “I don’t mind about the house because I can make a plan to rebuild it ,” he said.
My children will never come back. I’m so sad. I’m shaking even now,” he sobbed.
Mr Abrahams said they were about 14 family members staying in the house.
Meanwhile, the City of Cape Town said on Monday that various agencies have, with the assistance of Mr Abrahams, drafted a plan for assisting with trauma counselling, social and other relief, as well as funeral arrangements after meeting on Monday.
JP Smith, the City’s Mayco member for safety and security, said on site, SAPS and local neighbourhood watches are patrolling the scene, while the City’s Solid Waste Management Department has started clearing the rubble.
He said Mr Abrahams’ home is privately owned while the neighbour’s home which was also affected by the fire, is City rental stock and the matter has been handed over to the City’s Human Settlements Directorate to effect repairs. This will start when the property has been declared safe, but interim repairs will get under way to prevent further weather-related damage.
“We are also facilitating assistance for backyarder tenants displaced by the fire, while Disaster Risk Management (DRM) and the Mustadafin Foundation are arranging donations for the survivors including clothing, mattresses, food and vanity packs.”
Yesterday afternoon Lawhill Luxury Apartments at the Waterfront, also came on board to assist the family. In an email to the Plainsman, general manager Heather Inggs said: “We were moved by the tragic circumstances of the Abrahams family. This tragedy has a personal attachment to our business in that one of our employees is a neighbour to the family and tried his best to save some of the victims.
“We believe that they are destitute and that everything they owned has been destroyed and we will be contributing R3 000 and bedding (to the family).”
Members of the public wishing to make donations to the affected residents can drop these off at their nearest fire station.
Mr Smith said DRM has also arranged with the Department of Home Affairs to assist with the replacement of identity documents, while the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) will assist in replacing social grant cards. Sassa is also assisting with once-off financial assistance for affected households. DRM will liaise with the Health Department about assistance with medical bills for the survivors of the fire.
“Funeral arrangements for the rest of the victims are still being finalised, but the costs for the burial of those younger than 18 will be supported by Mayor’s discretionary fund.
“The provincial Department of Social Development will cover funeral costs for victims over the age of 18. Both the Department of Social Development and the South African Police Service have started providing victim support services and trauma counselling, including to neighbours of the victims.”
A memorial service was held on Monday at Imperial Primary School in Beacon Valley while a second memorial service is being planned for tomorrow, Thursday June 16. Details of this service were still being finalised at the time of going to print.
Family member Shakira Madatt ,19, who lost a nephew and niece in the fire, described the deceased as good people. “I suspect the fire started in the kitchen or dining room and spread to the other rooms. About five people died in the house and three in the ambulance on their way to hospital and one in hospital. They were all sleeping when the fire started,” said a traumatised Ms Madatt.
Health department spokesperson Monique Johnstone said one female family member was discharged from Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital on Sunday and the other four patients, due to the severity of their injuries, were transferred to Groote Schuur, Tygerberg and Victoria hospitals. “A 16-year-old male is in a critical condition at Victoria Hospital Intensive Care Unit and will be sent to Tygerberg Hospital’s Burns Unit for further care and treatment,” said Ms Johnstone.
Alaric Jacobs, Groote Schuur Hospital’s spokesperson, said two patients are at their hospital. “Both patients are in our ICU, but both are in a stable condition.”
President Jacob Zuma and mayor Patricia de Lille were among those who sent their condolences to the family.
“Our thoughts are with Mr Abrahams and his family during this time of immeasurable loss,” said Ms De Lille. “We also carry the four family members who are still in hospital in our thoughts and wish them a swift recovery,” she said.
Ms De Lille also said she believes Mr Abrahams and his family will find strength and comfort from their loved ones and all fellow Capetonians during this time of bereavement.
On the same day of the tragic fire, Mr Zuma sent a message of condolences to the family. “I am deeply saddened and shocked by this tragedy that has befallen the community of Mitchell’s Plain. I wish to extend my condolences and those of the whole government to the deceased during this difficult time,” said the president.