Farmhouse burnt to the ground

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A young Aberdeen family has been left devastated after a blaze totally destroyed their home on Belmont farm last Tuesday night. The farm is about 7km out of Aberdeen, just off the Willowmore road.

The whole area had been without power on Tuesday, due to planned Eskom maintenance. Farmer Jannie Lategan decided to join his wife and sons Jan-Hendrik (10) and Leon (6) at their house in Graaff-Reinet for the night, and so only the farm workers were on Belmont.

At about 7.30pm, one of the workers noticed flames in the kitchen, and contacted Lategan. The Aberdeen police and fire service responded quickly, and were soon on the scene, with many other members of the local community.

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The Aberdeen fire crew had only the Toyota Hilux fire service bakkie available, as apparently the main truck was in the workshop in Graaff-Reinet. According to one of those present, the tank of the bakkie can only hold 500 litres of water, and the pressure was very low, “like turning on a tap in the kitchen”.

When the fire reached the ammunition stored in the house, the resulting explosion caused the firefighters to retreat for a while, but by this stage, despite the best efforts of the fire crew and other helpers, the blaze was too intense for them to stop the fire spreading through the rest of the house.

When Jannie and Didi arrived about 9.30pm, they could only watch helplessly, as twelve years’ worth of memories shrivelled to nothing. A fire truck from Graaff-Reinet arrived shortly after them, but all the crew could do was dampen down the smouldering ruins.

The next morning, Jannie and Didi were at the farm, to see if anything could be salvaged. “We have lost everything,” said Didi, who said she had not slept all night. “I am just thankful that my children are safe, although they are very traumatised.”

The family has been staying with Jannie’s parents on their nearby farm, and despite the tragedy, life on Belmont has had to go on, with stock to be fed and cared for.

They went to George and Mossel Bay last weekend to stock up with new clothes, and the boys are now back at school. The ruins will be flattened and the house rebuilt, although they don’t know when. For now, they are thankful that they have a place to stay with Jannie’s parents, and are very grateful for all the practical help and well-wishes that they have received.

The cause of the fire is not known, although it seems to have started in the kitchen. There is speculation that a piece of equipment could have shorted, possibly due to a surge when the power came back on.

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