“This is the worst fire disaster we’ve had in Nelson Mandela Bay this year,” the Red Cross’s Coralie Peo-Swartz said.
As dawn broke four hours later, a sense of desolation set in.
The affected residents now have no identity documents, bank cards or clothes.
Keys, food, shoes, schoolbooks, furniture and bedding were all destroyed.
As they huddled in the Apostolic Faith Mission of SA church hall, some wore slippers and others were barefoot.
One woman had wrapped herself in a green blanket she had snatched from her bed as she fled.
“I don’t know where we will sleep tonight [Monday],” Nandipha Mayekiso, 29, said.
The fire started next to Mayekiso’s home, which has been reduced to ash.
“I just took my son and ran out. I was very scared,” she said.
Mayekiso and her neighbour listed the possessions they lost – a flatscreen television, four-plate stove, refrigerator, microwave, three-piece lounge suite and beds for everybody.
“I am still paying off the furniture,” Mayekiso said.
“I don’t know what I am going to do now.”
Thandazo Vunyiswa, 39, who works at the coffee shop at Builders Warehouse, said: “Everything is gone. We only have our pyjamas.”
Fikiso Mkrakra, 27, who shielded her eyes as she spoke, said: “I have a headache because I am scared.
“I don’t even have my son’s clinic card anymore. “There is nothing left. “I don’t know where we are going to sleep tonight.”
Mkrakra, who works at the SPAR, said: “I had to borrow clothes from other moms so that my son could go to school.”
In the nearly 10 years that Area Q-extension has been standing, there has never been a fire.
But the residents had always feared that it could happen, with the shacks built very close together.
Over the past weekend, the news of fires reached them three times.
The first fire, on Friday, took out a shack that was home to 10 people.
On Saturday, the shack of a man who had his three sons with him for the weekend burnt down.
On the same day, just a kilometre away, a man burnt to death inside his shack. Then the fire came for them. The Area Q-extension is a small community.
It had only a spaza shop, the church and the 24 shacks – all squeezed into a 300m² area.
The residents all know one another.