Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau
A FIVE-YEAR-OLD girl died while two other people were severely burnt when their house, which was allegedly used to store petrol for resale, caught fire in Beitbridge on Monday.
The toddler, who sustained severe burns following the fire incident, died on Tuesday afternoon.
Sources close to the case said the house caught fire when one of the victims was preparing a meal in a room packed with containers that had petrol meant for resale.
“One of the victims was preparing a meal using an electric stove and at the same time the suspected fuel dealer was decanting petrol from a big container into 2-litre containers.
“During the process there was an electric spark from the stove which ignited petrol fumes and the house caught fire,”said the source.
“Two male occupants aged 17 and 23 years and the child were burnt in the process.”
The source said the town council fire fighters assisted by residents managed to put out the fire.
The Officer Commanding Beitbridge district, Chief Superintendent Francis Phiri said he was yet to get information on the incident.
Beitbridge town council spokesperson, Mr Raniel Ndou said the three victims suffered serious burns and were admitted to Beitbridge district hospital.
“We are yet to get a full report on the incident, though indications are that the house was being used for illegal fuel deals.
“Let me reiterate that, selling or storage of fuel at houses is not only illegal but also dangerous as it puts the lives of occupants at risk.
“We are worried by the continued loss of lives due to incidents related to illegal fuel sales or storage,” said Mr Ndou.
He said though they had managed to clear many illegal fuel dealers from the streets, there were still a few who were defiant, playing a cat and mouse game with municipal police.
He said they were engaging the police and other stakeholders to fight illegal fuel dealers who were now operating from houses and other such places.
“We continue conducting raids on those implicated in illegal fuel activities and those selling the commodity on the streets.
“However, this big fight needs collaboration and willingness from the residents themselves to put an end to this dangerous practice,” he said.
Fires outbreaks linked to fuel have become a perennial headache in Beitbridge town, especially during summer when temperatures get extremely high.
A total of seven houses were extensively damaged by fires caused by fuel during the 2016 summer, which also killed two people.
The worst affected houses are those along the major roads used by local public transporters and several others opposite Dulivhadzimo bus terminus.