A grandmother and her two toddler grandchildren burnt to death in a locked house when a candle fell over and set the place alight while they were sleeping.
Residents of KwaBhekumthethwa, in KwaNongoma, are reeling in shock because Mseshi Zulu, 80, Thlokomelo, 5, and Buliswa, 2, could not escape the flames and were burnt to death while screaming for help.
They could not get out nor could anyone get in to the burning house because a family member had gone to watch television at a neighbour's house and locked the front door .
Local councillor Senzeni Zulu said the community was in pain.
"Neighbours indicated that the grandmother and children cried for help until they died.
"People could not get close to the house because of the raging flames. The situation is sad.
"We are trying to do everything to assist and support the surviving child," she said.
Police spokesman Vusi Mbatha said the home was gutted.
He said the hut caught alight and they were unable to escape.
The KwaZulu-Natal department of social development has stepped in to assist the family with funeral costs.
Provincial MEC Meshack Radebe visited the scene and called on communities to be more careful when using candles and flammable substances.
He described the scene as "horrible".
"It's not the first time we have seen such a horrible sight where people burn beyond recognition. Last year, we experienced a similar situation when pensioners were burnt to death in an old age home at Inkandla," he said.
The department will ensure that the grandmother and her grandchildren get a decent burial.