A heavily pregnant woman, her two-year-old baby and a suicidal neighbour were burnt to death and more than 15 shacks went up in flames when the suicide went horribly wrong at an informal settlement south of Durban yesterday.
Attempts by residents of Crossmor settlement to save the mother and her baby were thwarted by the strong flames.
Otallia Ngobe, from Mozambique, and her baby son, Erikson, burnt to death when their shack caught fire moments after their neighbour Sibusiso Zulu set himself alight inside his shack.
A shocked Ntombifuthi Mkhize, whose mother rents out shacks in the area, said she was woken up by screams for help coming from other shacks.
"We tried to extinguish the fire at Zulu's shack, but it spread to other shacks," said Mkhize.
She said they had known Zulu for three years and he was "a nice person", but all this changed when he fell sick last month.
"He became violent and his girlfriend tried to take him to hospital, but he refused.
"On Sunday, she called an ambulance, but he refused to get in and the paramedics had to leave without him."
Mkhize said Zulu's girlfriend, known only as Nomathemba, left late on Monday night.
"He must have locked the door from the inside and set himself alight," added Mkhize.
Musa Thafeni, whose shack also caught fire, said he was preparing to go to work when all hell broke loose.
"Shacks were on fire and there was pandemonium as everyone ran for safety."
Superintendent Daniela Veldhuizen said the cause of the fire had not yet been established.