Teddy bear, passports, blanket and baby - all mom could save in Kempton Park inferno

01 October 2019 - 13:03 By Nonkululeko Njilo

Lebohang Selai was ready to sleep after her 23-month-old son had closed his eyes when she heard the screams: “It’s burning, fire, fire!”

And there was worse to come. The flames searing across Pomona informal settlement, reducing shacks to piles of twisted metal and ashes, would destroy about 200 dwellings in Great North Road, Kempton Park, Ekurhuleni, on Monday evening.

“Junior had just slept and I was about to join him, and then people started screaming, ‘It’s burning, fire, fire … I then jumped. When I opened the door, there was smoke all over,” she told TimesLIVE on Tuesday.

Walking through the settlement, all that was left in the aftermath of the blaze by midday were pieces of blackened metal, burnt beds, corrugated iron and ashes.

The fire left Selai and about 900 others clutching what they could salvage, but homeless.

Junior, their passports, a teddy bear and a blanket were the only items she could save as the fire spread.

“I wanted to take a lot of things but what was important was to save my child, take our passports and his toy because he can’t sleep without it,” she said. 

Matsepang Koena.
Matsepang Koena.
Image: Sunday Times/Alaister Russell

Selai and her son slept with other affected residents on the roadside. 

Matsepang Koena said she and her husband managed to save their bed, blankets and cellphones. 

“We don’t care about all that is lost, we are grateful we are alive. Had the fire started in the middle of the night I bet some people would have died,” she said.

A place to sleep and food was all that many residents said they needed as they sat by the roadside, guarding the little that was left of their belongings.