Toddler loses family members in fire

A 2-year-old Tafelsig boy who survived a fire in which his two sisters, his cousin, their grandmother and her boyfriend died at the weekend, returned to hospital on Monday.

Zahier Muller was the only survivor in the devastating fire, which razed his grandmother Rosetta Arendse’s wendy house to the ground at about 4am on Saturday July 24.

Zahier Muller, 2.

The boy was burned on his head and his hand; and was rescued by his uncle, Samuel Arendse, his grandmother’s son, who was also injured in the fire, and had managed to pull him out of the blaze.

Mitchell’s Plain District Hospital spokesperson, Monique Johnstone, said Zahier was treated and discharged within two hours on Saturday.

On Monday July 26 he returned to the hospital but was back home about two hours later.

Ms Johnstone said they cannot disclose the severity of the injury as Zahier is a minor and because of patient confidentiality.

Ms Arendse, 64, along with her boyfriend Obin van Wyk, 49, her grandson Franklin Peters, 18, Zahier’s sisters Stephanie Muller, 8, and Rabia Muller, 6, died in the blaze.

Rosetta Arendse, 64.
Franklin Peters, 18.
Rabia Muller, 6.
Stephanie Muller, 8.

Ms Arendse and Mr Van Wyk had been living in his mother Hester Petersen’s backyard for almost three years.

Hester Petersen, 68, looks out of her damaged window to the debris caused by the fire in which her son Obin van Wyk, his girlfriend Rosetta Arendse and her three grandchildren were burned beyond recognition.

Ms Petersen said Ms Arendse’s grandchildren, who lives in Eastridge, had come over to spend the night on Friday July 23.

Ms Petersen, 68, said she was woken up by screaming close to 4am.

“When I went to see what it was about, I saw that the wendy was on fire,” she said.

Looking out of the damaged window where heaped debris from the fire are all that remain to tell of the five bodies which were burned beyond recognition, Ms Petersen said there were no words to describe the loss.

Her windows were shattered and the door leading to her yard was burned during the blaze.

She said the children, who died in the fire, were loved and cared for. “Their parents are devastated,” she said.

Mayor Dan Plato visited on Sunday July 25 and sympathised with the families.

His spokesman, Lyndon Khan, said that assistance will be rendered for the burial costs and trauma counselling, via the City of Cape Town’s social development department.

Charlotte Powell, City of Cape Town Disaster Risk Management spokesperson, said they assessed the damage and activated the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) to provide humanitarian relief.

Jermaine Carelse, spokesperson for the City’s Fire and Rescue Services, said they received a call at 4.08am and on arrival, the wendy house in Buffelshoek Street, was engulfed in flames.

The fire was extinguished about an hour later and the scene was handed over to the South African Police Services.

Mr Carelse said a total of 25 incidents of fires at informal structures in Tafelsig in recent weeks were reported without any fatalities.

“The City works continuously to increase education and awareness in communities around fire safety. There is always a risk of fire, but prevention requires a collective effort,” he said.

He appealed to residents to take the necessary precautions to reduce the risk of fires in their community, regardless of whether they reside in informal settlements or formal residences.

“Communities must be vigilant and work with us to reduce the number of preventable fires,” he said.

An inquest docket has been opened at Mitchell’s Plain police station.

Captain Ian Williams, Mitchell’s Plain SAPS spokesman, said the cause of the fire is not known yet and that DNA analysis would have to be done to identify the deceased.

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call Detective-Sergeant Vuyaan Claasen, from Mitchell’s Plain SAPS’ Crime Investigation Department, on 021 370 1782.