Hero saves 13 girls from fire

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was locked.

He ran out­side again, tore his T-shirt, dipped it in wa­ter and wrapped it around his mouth and nose to keep the smoke at bay. He climbed a tree dressed only in his shorts.

“I got up there and, with an iron rod, broke the win­dow and slipped through it into the girls’ rooms. There was not much move­ment and only a few were up. The oth­ers were still sleep­ing,” he said.

“There was lots of smoke and it was dark. I walked to­wards the door and used the same iron rod to force it open.”

With the exit now cleared, some girls ran out, leav­ing Tha­bang be­hind to search for oth­ers. He reached for the first girl he stum­bled on and dragged her out. From there, he rushed up and down the stairs, in and out of the build­ing, drag­ging girls out of the fire. “Some were still sleep­ing and I went from room to room in the dark search­ing with my hands for the girls. “I woke up those who were sleep­ing and oth­ers were too con­fused and made it hard for me to get them out of the build­ing be­cause they were pulling out of my grip,” he said.

“At one point I found two girls, grabbed them both, us­ing one arm for each of them, and rushed out. Once out­side, other boys helped to pour wa­ter on them, as they were cough­ing and strug­gling to breathe.” One of the teach­ers was also there and res­cued one girl, he said. “Another boy was also help­ing me search for more girls and take them out of the build­ing. It was hot in there and the smoke was not mak­ing it easy for us, but we con­tin­ued search­ing while other boys with wa­ter buck­ets were try­ing to put out the flames,” he said.

“When most of the girls were al­ready out, I walked into the bath­rooms. Be­fore I en­tered, part of the burn­ing roof col­lapsed in front of me. I am not sure if it was the geyser or burst pipes, but there was a lot of wa­ter com­ing from the roof. But I was too late to save the three girls.”

The res­cued girls had lost their cloth­ing and most of their be­long­ings in the fire and all were still wear­ing their py­ja­mas. Moruti stepped in again.

“It was about 1am and too cold, es­pe­cially for those who had had wa­ter poured over them. They were freez­ing and I went to the boys’ rooms and brought some of my clothes and gave to those I could … I was sad I could not help all of them,” he said.

Tha­bang couldn’t think of his own fear as he res­cued the girls from the fire.

“I was only think­ing of the girls who were trapped in their rooms. I was not scared at all. All I wanted was to save lives.” Tha­bang now knows what he wants to do with his life. “I have al­ways dreamt of be­ing a fire­man and sav­ing lives, but now I am sure this is what I want. I am very sad that the fire­men ar­rived too late and the po­lice could also not help much,” he said.

“If I could, I would have a fire sta­tion in each and ev­ery town and vil­lage, and not some dis­tance away. Lives could have been saved had a fire sta­tion been close by.”

PHOTO: LUCKY NXUMALO

YOUNG SAVIOUR Deaf pupil Tha­bang Moruti climbed a tree to reach the top floor of the dor­mi­tory, where smoke and flames were rav­aging the girls’ rooms. He used an iron bar to break a win­dow and then climbed in­side

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