KAREL Stephanus Blaauw looks down the street as he remembers that fateful night when he heard the screams of his two adolescent daughters on 1 August at Montecristo, Walvis Bay.
They were playing games on his phone when he walked out of the shack that night.
The younger one asked her father to lock the door, as they were scared to stay with an open door.
A few moments later, Blaauw, who was busy at the back of the house, heard screams.
“I could not believe what I saw at the door. There was smoke. I kicked the door open and found the younger one first. I grabbed her and ran outside. I ran back and started looking for the older one. It was really difficult to see through the smoke and flames, but God was so good. He led me to feel along the wall, until I felt her body. I ran out with her,” he said.
Blaauw said the girls must have fallen asleep, as there was a candle burning in the room.
It was only when they reached the Walvis Bay State Hospital with the paramedics that he understood the seriousness of the fire. The two girls sustained serious burns, especially on their hands, legs and backs. They had to be rushed to Windhoek for further treatment. The older one, 15-year-old Denise Coetzee, suffered more serious burns than her sister, and was in the Intensive Care Unit for about two weeks. She suffered third degree burns.
“I was really concerned about my little sister. I tried to cover her through the fire incident, because she was so scared. I also did not want her to burn. I saw the flames moving towards her side. My dad went out for a while, and I think we must have fallen asleep. I was afraid when I woke up and saw the smoke. We passed out. I can mostly just remember waking up outside, passing out again and waking up in the hospital,” she said.
Denise, who was coughing and struggling to breathe properly during the interview, has since developed respiratory problems.
She has also become withdrawn and keeps tucking her scarred hands into her jacket.
Her sister, 12-year-old Chrizilda Coetzee, proudly remembers how her sister tried to protect her.
“It was really scary and I only saw smoke. I ran to the door and found my sister there. My sister tried to shield me. We kept calling my dad. The next moment, I just remembered being outside,” she said.
Denise and Chrizilda have to go to hospital occasionally for treatment. They just returned from another treatment session in Windhoek last month.
They go for physiotherapy, because Denise’s hand can still not function properly.
They are currently staying in another shack at their grandmother’s house for the two sisters to escape memories of that night, and also to be near a place where they can have electricity.
The family lost all their belongings, especially documents, and are appealing to good Samaritans to assist them where they can.
Walvis Bay police sergeant Zelda Mbarandongo on Tuesday confirmed that the incident took place on 1 August.
The two girls were transported to the Walvis Bay State Hospital and transferred to the Katutura Intermediate Hospital in Windhoek, she said.
Walvis Bay fire officer Werner Namiseb says August was a sad month for the fire department.
“We recorded 64 fire calls in 2020, 59 in 2001, while 27 were recorded in 2022 so far. That affected 82 households.Two deaths and three injuries were recorded in August this year,” he said.