Just days after KwaZulu-Natal Premier S'bu Ndebele declared areas under the Umlalazi municipality disaster areas, another calamity struck when three orphans died from gas inhalation yesterday morning.
Sibongile Nomvula Mpungose, 17, cousin Nokuthula Ayanda Xulu, 17, and sister Nokwazi Mpungose, 12, and the only survivor, Zinhle Mncube, 17, of Eshowe, had been orphaned for the past three years.
Eshowe police spokesman Inspector Mbongeni Mdlalose said the police got a call at 7am asking them to go and check if the children were fine since they had not opened the door of their one-roomed house.
"Apparently a neighbour's child went to the house to check why the children had not woken up for school as usual," Mdlalose said.
"When she knocked there was no response, which made her suspicious."
Mdlalose said the police broke down the door and made a gruesome discovery.
"It looked as if the children had woken up, made some vetkoek and then probably went back to bed. We are not sure whether the gas stove was not properly turned off or had leaked and killed them."
Mdlalose said the only survivor, Zinhle, was in a critical condition in hospital.
"Zinhle was taken to the Eshowe Hospital but had to be airlifted to a Durban hospital because of her condition," he said. "Two of the children attended Mlalazi Primary and the third Gawozi High.
"An inquest docket has been opened."
Local mayor Themba Magwaza expressed shock at the incident.
"I'm at a loss for words to describe how I feel. These children were left orphaned after their mothers died, leaving them with their granny, who also died a few years ago."