#MothersDay: Mom braves flames to save her son

Published May 13, 2018


DURBAN - With her home collapsing around her as a fire engulfed it, she braved the flames to save her son, who was sleeping in his cot.

It will be a miserable Mother’s Day for Chardonne Govender and her neighbours after their homes in the Malukazi settlement near Isipingo burnt down on Monday night.

Her wood-and-iron house, connected to three Wendy-style homes, caught alight after fire spread from a pile of rubble situated nearby.

The families who lost their homes to fire gather under a makeshift tent.

The families, including three children aged between one and nine, escaped with minor injuries and just the clothes they were wearing.

Authorities, including disaster management officials and Ward 89 councillor Bhekisisa Mjadi visited the families on Tuesday, but Govender said they feel abandoned.

Only a small tent, set up by a neighbour, at present shelters 12 adults and their children after the fire destroyed all their possessions.

“I was chatting to my mother outside the house when I felt the heat. I turned around and saw flames going up the building. I feared for my one-year-old son, Neolin, who was sleeping in his cot,” Govender said.

When she went in, she found her son choking on smoke. With flames engulfing the doorway, Govender dashed in and pushed her son through a window, then jumped out after him.

“We grabbed buckets and filled them with water to douse the flames, but all four houses were already burning. The firefighters helped and treated us for smoke inhalation, but everything we owned was already gone up in flames,” she said.

Since that night, the families have had to sleep in an open, makeshift tent, on old mattresses provided by neighbours and have had to contend with the cold night air.

The families who lost their homes to fire gather under a makeshift tent.

The eThekwini Municipality is yet to provide assistance to the families, Govender said.

“They came here and took down our names, but they have not yet helped. Everything happened in a flash that night, but the only thing on my mind at the time was saving my baby.

“We don’t know what caused the fire, but we believe it started in a rubble pile close to my house and spread from there,” she said.

It was the second time that her home had been devastated by fire. Two years ago, her previous home was burnt when unknown arsonists started a fire nearby.

“Our neighbours are helping with food and bathing facilities while we try to recover,” she added.

Govender’s mother, Crystal Naidoo, said she screamed when her daughter ran into the flaming house to save Neolin.

Mother’s Day, for Naidoo, will be bleak. She was discharged from hospital on Friday, following three weeks of recovery after a renal operation.

“All we got out with were the clothes on our backs. My son-in-law’s car is a write-off. He can’t go to work and the kids’ school clothes have been burnt. What do we do?” asked a dismayed Naidoo.

The families who lost their homes to fire gather under a makeshift tent.

Charmaine Moodley, who is based in Isipingo, has been helping those affected and has called on the community to band together to assist the families.

“Right now they need a place to stay. We need to come together and help them,” she said.

The eThekwini Municipality nor the Ward Councillor has replied to queries for comment.

Moodley can be contacted via [email protected]


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