A HARARE woman died yesterday morning in a fire that gutted eight flats at a single block in the Avenues.
Police suspected Sheila Katsa (40) could have started the fire in a suicide case but were by last night still to establish the cause of the fire.
Katsa, who was staying at London Lodge, was reportedly having personal problems.
Harare provincial police spokesperson Inspector James Sabau said Katsa was reportedly suffering from mental problems.
Household property and seven cars worth thousands of dollars were destroyed in the fire which also left eight families homeless.
The incident occurred at around 3am and no one else was injured. Katsa was sharing the flat with Ms Ruvimbo Gwaze (30).
The two used different bedrooms.A security guard at the block of flats, Mr Edward Chari, said he heard a distress call from the fourth floor while on patrol.
“I went to investigate and saw smoke coming out of Flat Number 40 where Sheila lived.
“Her mate (Gwaze) came out and I tried to go in, but failed because of the intense heat coming from the house,” he said.
Mr Chari said the fire spread and he called for other people to come and assist.
People in the affected flats on the fourth floor escaped unhurt. The Fire Brigade arrived 30 minutes later and put out the fire.
Katsa was found dead by the door.
Mr Chari said he strongly believed that the fire was caused by a candle which Katsa was using in her room. He said electricity at the flat was disconnected after tenants failed to settle their bill. Insp Sabau yesterday said an incoherent Katsa had woken up Gwaze at around 1am holding a knife.
“Gwaze told her that they would discuss the issues later before she retired to bed. “But at around 0320 hours, Gwaze heard Katsa crying for help and saw fire,” he said. Insp Sabau said Gwaze escaped, but Katsa only crawled to the door before dying on the spot.
“We have not ascertained the cause of the fire. We strongly suspect that she started the fire but we are still carrying out investigations,” Insp Sabau said. He confirmed that Katsa was once admitted at the psychiatric unit at Parirenyatwa Hospital.
Ms Mary Chigumira, who lives on the second floor at the flat, said she noticed the fire and phoned the police at around 3.30am.
“I heard some noise with people yelling that Sheila had set herself ablaze and that was when I called the police who came around 4.05am,” she said.
Mr Dextar Samukange, who also lives at the flat, confirmed that Katsa was once admitted at hospital for mental health problems.
Another resident said: “I think she was having difficult times in dealing with her finances. She even tried to throw herself over the balcony but was rescued by other tenants.”
London Lodge Association chairman Mr Wadi Lajabu said Katsa was having mental health problems and could have doused herself with petrol before committing suicide.