Lucky escape from fire for Uitenhage 79-year-old


Xolisile Yani’s chips and vetkoek business ruined

Photo of man with bandage on arm
Xolisile Yani crawled from his burning house. Photo: Thamsanqa Mbovane

A 79-year-old man escaped a wall of fire by crawling out of his four-roomed house in KwaNobuhle township in Uitenhage in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

“I crawled like a baby. I was inhaling smoke in the dark but had no option but to crawl out,” said Xolisile Yani, from ward 46. He lived alone in the house.

He was running a business of selling potato chips and amagwinya (vetkoek) in his yard. “A packet of potato chips was selling at R10, while vetkoek were R1 each. Our customers were school children and residents.”

He said he suspected the fire started in the garage.

“It erupted at about 3am while I was fast asleep … I suddenly heard crackling sounds. I thought thieves had broken into my house,” said Yani. “When I opened the front door, a wall of fire came towards me. I fell down and crawled out of the fire. I burnt my elbow and my back.”

He said on Monday a female relative had brought a 3kg gas cylinder to use to fry the food instead of an electric frying pan. The cylinder was apparently left in the garage in the yard. He thought the fire had started there.

The four-roomed house was gutted by fire. Photo: Thamsanqa Mbovane

When GroundUp visited the scene there were three fire trucks in the street. Residents were outside their houses watching.

“I was happy that the three fire trucks came on time,” said Yani’s son Mandla. “At least my father escaped death … He neither smokes nor drinks and is not a negligent person. He has lost all his belongings, and only has the clothes he is wearing.”

Ward 46 Councillor Lindelwa Qukubana (ANC) said she would visit the family soon “and see where to assist”.

Police spokesperson Captain Gerda Swart said, “The local fire department attended to the fire. No fatalities were reported. No criminal case was opened”.

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