WALVIS BAY – What was meant to be a weekend to catch up with friends ended in tragedy when a shack fire claimed the life of a mother and her two-year-old son at the Twaloloka informal settlement in Walvis Bay.
The fire, which broke out in Walvis Bay on Friday evening, also left over 20 families homeless.
The victims were identified as Ermelinda Dausas (38) and Christian Dausab, who were visiting their friend Boetie Keister and his partner Caroline Shikongo.
The couple believes that Dausas went back to save her son and was trapped by the engulfing flames, where she ultimately perished.
Still shocked, Keister on Saturday morning told New Era he feels defeated as a man, as he could not save the mother and child.
“I don’t feel like a man. I am so sorry that I could not save them, but I didn’t know that the baby was with her,” a distraught Keister said on Saturday while holding his son.
Keister explained he returned home from work around 22h30 on Friday night and found his partner and her three friends, who were in a jovial mood, drinking.
“I then went to buy beer, which we all shared before we went to bed. Dausas went to sleep in my daughter’s room. I did not know that her son was already sleeping,” said Keister.
He asked his daughter if her candle was out – to which she responded in the affirmative.
Eventually, all of them went to bed, and Keister said he was woken up by a very sharp light shining in his eyes.
“I realised that it was coming from the roof, and that it was flames. I jumped out of bed and got water to extinguish the fire but got scared. However, I woke my partner up and then went to wake my daughter and the deceased,” Keister explained.
According to him, Dausas was standing in the kitchen, and he assumed she was making her way out to safety like everybody else.
“I now know that she went back into the room to grab her son, who was still sleeping. I would have gotten him out in time also if I knew he was also visiting with her, but I did not know. I don’t feel like a man anymore that people I was supposed to protect died in my house. I am so sorry that I couldn’t save them as well,” Keister said.
Shikongo said she cannot remember how the fire started, but she remembers being woken up by her partner.
She said she burnt her thigh in the process and ripped off the clothes she was wearing.
“I ran outside naked, looking for my friend among the crowd. I was praying so hard that they made it out alive – only to be told that they were trapped in the fire and died. Even worse, her family in Walvis Bay did not know that she was visiting, as we were planning to go see her elder sister the next day. Sadly, she died before we could even do that,” Shikongo explained.
Police inspector Ileni Shapumba on Saturday confirmed the fire was most likely caused by a candle.
Meanwhile, Walvis Bay mayor Trevino Forbes aided the displaced families with basic needs and tents to serve as temporary accommodation while they are rebuilding their homes.
“It is really a tragedy that our people lost their lives in shack fires. Council is hard at work to find a more permanent solution to the town’s housing problem,” Forbes said on Sunday.
About 50 000 Walvis Bay residents currently live in backyard shacks or they are renting due to a critical shortage of affordable land and housing.