Five children died, but 19 were were saved in two separate blazes this week, one in Willowvale and the other in Mdantsane.
In Willowvale on Thursday morning five grandchildren, including a set of twins aged three, died with their grandmother and her daughter in their home in Mnqayi village in Ciko, near Willowvale.
Teacher Nowandisile Xalisile, 56, her daughter Abongile, 28, grandchildren Cinga 14, Kungawo 11, Simange, 8, and three-year-old twins Sibonguthando and Simosothando died in the blaze.
Eastern Cape provincial police commissioner Lieutenant General Liziwe Ntshinga expressed shock on Thursday at the “very tragic and unfortunate” disaster.
An inquest docket had been opened and an in-depth investigation would try and get to the root cause of the fire.
She said preliminary investigations suggested the victims had been asleep when the house caught alight.
At the ruined home, Nowandisile’s distraught son, Mphumzi Xalisile, 35, said all seven family members had been asleep in the three- roomed house.
He was sleeping in a flat nearby when he was woken at 3am by his younger brother who had heard loud screams from their mother next door.
“The house was ablaze.
“He kicked down my door and we both rushed to the house,” said Mphumzi on Thursday.
“We took a pick and a umgqala [crowbar] because the door and windows had burglar bars but the fire overpowered us. We couldn’t save them.”
The Dispatch saw blood stains inside the house just near the door.
Mphumzi said they had phoned the police. The Mbhashe firefighters arrived less than an hour later.
Mbhashe council speaker Babalwa Majavu, who was at the Xalisile homestead with two ward councillors, said: “We are pained as the municipality. We thought it [the fire] could have been caused by the gale force winds.”
The municipality would be holding a meeting to find out how to help the surviving family members.
Police provincial communications head Brigadier Tembinkosi Kinana said: “We want to do a thorough investigation and get to the bottom of this incident. Whoever thinks they have information must come forward.”
Distraught Nkosi Nomfumaneko “Nosamkele” Manxiwa, the head of the Ebhongweni traditional council, hoped the government would assist with burials.
l In Mdantsane a heroic creche teacher and her assistant spotted a runaway fire approaching and whisked their 19 toddler charges to safety.
The veld blaze, apparently started during Tuesday’s 80km/h gale, engulfed their daycare centre in NU1, burning it to the ground.
Owner of Imijelo Yamanzi Day Care centre, Nondumiso Lumkwana, said she saw a huge fire charging towards the centre at about 10am on Tuesday.
Lumkwana said: “We were all inside when I heard these crackling sounds, so I went to investigate. When I looked through the window I saw this huge fire and it was heading towards us.”
She and her assistant teacher, Fundiswa Mphotulo, quickly rounded up the children, aged one to five, and got them all to safety.
She said: “The community tried to put it out using buckets of water and a garden hose, but the blaze was too strong.”
“Apparently the neighbour was cooking on a fire outside, and then the wind picked up and the fire got out of control.”
Lumkwana said BCM firefighters arrived two hours later, by which time the centre was a charred ruin.
BCM spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya said: “The issue will be put to our fire department for investigation.”