The fire that consumed the Lakehaven Child and Youth Care Centre in Sea Cow Lake, is believed to have been caused by an electrical fault in the boys’ quarters, after the rooms were newly renovated, an unofficial source said. Investigations were still being conducted, though, to verify the cause.
The fire raged at around 2am this morning, an hour after the care-givers had done their role count, and of the 18 children who were still at the home (after their peers had returned to their families for school holidays), 8 were burned to death, Ncunisa Ndelu from the Department of Social Development said. “The 18 was comprised of both boys and girls. But it was only the boys who passed away. They were aged between 7 and 19,” she said.
Parents and relatives arrived at the home and were escorted in by guards, their social workers and child welfare officials who took them in for counselling. An emotional Shehnaaz Gabru, executive director of Child Welfare, said that the survivors were receiving counselling. “Of the 18 children, we were only able to save 10. Eight succumbed. We will be providing emotional support for the children and caregivers who survived,” she said.
Mayor James Nxumalo expressed the municipality’s shock. He said that the municipality will help the families financially with the funeral arrangements.
A neighbour to the home, Nimi Singh, who resided in Lakenhave Estate, said that they were traumatised by the incident. “Some of these children were in school with my daughter. We can’t believe something like this has happened,” she said.
Ish Prahladh of Iron Force security said that his security company got the call in the early hours and rushed to the scene. “We managed to pull out two children and two caregivers. But the fire was too fierce to fight,” he said.