A shopkeeper and informal petrol dealer from Chiwundura communal area died in hospital while her 5-year-old son was burnt beyond recognition after petrol and gas containers she kept in her shop at Muchakata Business Centre exploded and razed the whole shop. Her other two children, aged 12 and 10, managed to escape the inferno with minor burns.
Midlands provincial police spokesperson Inspector Emmanuel Mahoko was still to get more details of the incident. Local councillor Justin Mushonga, who was at the business centre when the incident occurred on Wednesday night, said Ms Precious Hlabati had been running a backyard petrol trading business for the past three years and used her shop as a store room.
There was load shedding in the area on the fateful day and Ms Hlabathi, a single mother who also ran a grocery shop, used a candle to provide lighting. He said she stayed at the same shop with her three children.
“The candle caused the fire and the flames from the petrol somehow torched the shop while they were inside. Everyone who was at the business centre rushed to the scene.
“Ms Hlabati and her two other children got out of the shop, which was in flames but she then braved the huge flames and got into the burning shop in bid to save her five-year-old boy who had been trapped inside,” said the councillor.
Clr Mushonga said the crowd urged her to get out of the burning shop but she remained inside. Ms Hlabati later popped out of the shop without the boy but with severe burns.
“She collapsed and we then called the fire brigade from Gweru as other villagers tried to put out the fire but to no avail. Chief Chiwundura then arrived at the scene and offered to rush Ms Hlabati to Gweru Provincial Hospital,” Clr Mushonga said.
Clr Mushonga said the whole shop was burnt down and nothing was recovered. When the fire brigade arrived, everything had been burnt and we only removed the charred remains of the boy.
Chief Chiwundura said Ms Hlabati later died yesterday afternoon at a hospital in Harare where she had been transferred to.
“Its a sad incident which befell us yesterday night. Unfortunately, the mother died while in hospital in Harare today. I took her to Gweru Provincial Hospital yesterday night but the nurses had indicated that they were transferring her to Harare due to the extent of the burns,” said Chief Chiwundura.
The traditional leader warned his subjects against trading in fuel using backyard shops.